Are you or someone you know facing a criminal trespass charge in Fort Worth, Arlington, or a surrounding city?
If so, you need an experienced Criminal Trespass Lawyer to make sure you do not become another conviction statistic. If you have been charged with criminal trespass in the Fort Worth area, it is likely that you are facing charges that, if convicted, could result in life changing circumstances. Your liberty is at risk! It is critical that you hire an attorney in Fort Worth that specializes in criminal defense.
In order to prepare your criminal defense, you must first examine what Texas criminal law says about the crime of Criminal Trespass.
What Is Criminal Trespass In Texas?
Under Texas Penal Code §30.05 a person commits the offense of Criminal Trespass if the person knowingly enters or remains on or in property of another, including residential land, agricultural land, a recreational vehicle park, a building, or an aircraft or other vehicle, without effective consent and the person:
- Had notice that the entry was forbidden; or
- Received notice to depart but failed to do so.
What does this mean? Essentially, it is knowingly entering into a place or residence you know you are not supposed to be. However, one key element of the crime of criminal trespass is that you had proper notice. Merely being present on the property, by itself, is not sufficient to convict for the crime of criminal trespass.
Let us break down the remaining elements of the crime of Criminal Trespass:
What Is Proper Notice under Texas Penal Code, Section 30.05?
Under Texas Penal Code, Section 30.05, the law provides the specific set of circumstances for how notices can be given: “Notice” means:
- oral or written communication by the owner or someone with apparent authority to act for the owner;
- fencing or other enclosure obviously designed to exclude intruders or to contain livestock;
- a sign or signs posted on the property or at the entrance to the building, reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders, indicating that entry is forbidden;
- the placement of identifying purple paint marks on trees or posts on the property, provided that the marks are:
- vertical lines of not less than eight inches in length and not less than one inch in width;
- placed so that the bottom of the mark is not less than three feet from the ground or more than five feet from the ground; and
- placed at locations that are readily visible to any person approaching the property and no more than:
- 100 feet apart on forest land; or
- 1,000 feet apart on land other than forest land; or
- the visible presence on the property of a crop grown for human consumption that is under cultivation, in the process of being harvested, or marketable if harvested at the time of entry.
What if you were on a piece of private property and had no idea it was private or that you were prohibited from being on the property? Were there any clearly visible signs surrounding the property? Did the owner convey to you orally that you were not permitted to be on the property? If not, you had not intent to be on property for which you had no notice!
How Do You Know You Have “Entered” A Property Under Texas Criminal Trespass Law?
Texas law requires that you be completely on the property of another without their consent and you receive adequate notice in order to be convicted of criminal trespass. For example, reaching across the fence of another property owner to grab a football you threw over their fence, would not be trespassing under Texas law. You must enter your entire body onto the property.
Is Criminal Trespass A Felony In Texas?
Thankfully, no! In Texas, the crime of criminal trespass is a misdemeanor offense. In order to determine what level of misdemeanor crime you are facing; you must break criminal trespass down by separate designations.
If you have been charged with criminal trespass of property that was not a habitation, you will be facing a Class B misdemeanor. Under Texas criminal law, a class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to 180 days in the county jail and up to a $2,000 fine.
Criminal Trespass of a Habitation
However, if you have been arrested and charged with criminal trespass of a habitation, you will be facing a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in the county jail and up to a $4,000 fine.
How To Get A Criminal Trespass Case Dismissed
In order to have the best chance at getting your criminal trespass case dismissed, you and your criminal attorney should develop a legal defense that attacks the elements of the crime and use this as leverage to negotiate a dismissal. There are several legal defenses that have been proven effective in negotiations.
Effective Consent To Enter Property
Did you have consent to enter or remain on the property? Remember, the State of Texas through the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knowingly entered the property without the effective consent of the owner.
Maybe there were instances that you had been given permission to enter the property in the past. A winning argument that may result in a criminal trespass case being dismissed would be providing evidence of prior consent from the owner allowing you access to the property. This type of evidence would establish a good faith basis for you to have entered the property once again.
What if you initially had consent to enter the property but the owner claims to have revoked that consent? Was the owner’s revocation of the consent clear and unambiguous?
For example, we represented a client that had been arrested for criminal trespass where the owner became anger with our client and said, “forget it, I’m done with you! I’m not talking to you anymore and I don’t want to see your face.” The homeowner then called the police and claimed he was told to leave the premises and no longer had consent to be on the property. However, the statement given (fortunately, we had a recording of it), was ambiguous and did not clearly establish that the client no longer had consent to be on the property.
Notice Was Improper
Was the notice you received not to be on the property adequate? Was it proper notice under Texas criminal trespass law? For example, was the sign posted on the property “reasonably likely to be noticed”? Was the signage posted regularly along the property? If there is a reasonable doubt regarding whether the notice was proper, your Fort Worth criminal attorney can use this as leverage to negotiate a dismissal of your criminal trespass charge.
For example: we represented a client that was arrested for criminal trespass because he and his son were fishing on someone’s private property. However, the client believed he was on public property based upon it being next to a public park. There was a sign posted but it was on a tree where foliage and bushes covered the area. We argued that the signage was not reasonably likely to be noticed, as required by Texas law. As such, we were able to negotiate a conditional dismissal for our client so that his case would be dismissed and eligible to be expunged from his criminal record.
You Owned The Property
If you owned the property or had a legal right to the property, you cannot be charged with the crime of criminal trespass. How does this happen? We have had partners in a partnership get angry at each other and one partner tried to kick the other one off the property, which led to police being called. In a situation like this, the crime of criminal trespass cannot be substantiated.
If you have a legal right to the property or any ownership interest in the property, the other owners cannot claim you lack consent to enter or remain on the property.
These examples illustrate the importance of ensuring that your criminal defense lawyer has the experience and track record of successfully achieving results on criminal trespass cases in Fort Worth, Texas.
At The Fulgham Law Firm, our goal is to get your criminal trespass case dismissed. This can be done in several different ways:
- Lack of evidence dismissal – if the State of Texas lacks sufficient evidence to convict you of the crime of criminal trespass, your criminal defense attorney must fight for as long as it takes to negotiate a dismissal of your charges. This requires your attorney to share the evidence with you, analyze the evidence for all possible legal defenses, and tirelessly negotiate with the prosecutor to ensure you are treated fairly.
- Conditional Dismissal – your criminal attorney may be able to convince the prosecutor to dismiss your criminal trespass case in exchange for you completing certain conditions. For example, with criminal trespass dismissals, you may be required to complete community service hours or donate to a local charity. A conditional dismissal provides you the benefit of having your case dismissed and eligible for an expunction of your arrest and criminal case records.
- Dropped to a ticket level offense – your criminal lawyer may be able to negotiate a reduction of the Class A or Class B criminal trespass charge to a Class C ticket level offense. For example, we have had many criminal trespass cases lowered to a lesser ticket offense of Disorderly Conduct. How is this helpful? Ticket level offenses resolved as a deferred disposition become eligible for a complete expunction of all criminal records upon dismissal of the citation.
- Not guilty verdict at a jury trial – you always have a constitutional right to a jury trial. The State of Texas will be required to convince six jurors to unanimously agree that you committed the crime of criminal trespass beyond a reasonable doubt. Failure to prove the crime beyond a reasonable doubt will result in a complete exoneration of your name and you will be come immediately eligible to have the criminal trespass arrest and charge removed from your background.
Fort Worth Attorney handling Criminal Trespass Cases
If you have been arrested and charged with criminal trespass in Fort Worth, Arlington or in Tarrant and surrounding counties, you need a skilled Fort Worth criminal lawyer. A criminal trespass conviction could carry with it the possibility of jail time.
At Fulgham Law Firm P.C. our goal is to prevent jail time and to help you clear your record. By choosing to work with our criminal defense team, you will have the expertise and experienced of a team of Former Prosecutors with over 80 years of criminal law experienced and over 500 criminal jury trials. Your future and your freedom are too important to leave to chance! Call us right now to get help. (817) 877-3030
We’ve helped hundreds of people in Texas, and we can help you too. We’ll set you up with a free conversation with Mr. Fulgham which will help you know what to do next. The Fulgham Law Firm serves Fort Worth and Tarrant county areas.