The following is a video transcript.
What do you do when an unruly party guest gets out of hand? Of course you can kick them out, but what if they won’t leave? What about someone who shows up on your property uninvited?
These people are trespassers, and Texas law protects your property rights by allowing you to decide who is and is not allowed on your property. Let’s discuss who might become trespassers and what you can do legally to eject them.
WHEN IS IT TRESPASSING?
You may eject an unwanted person from your property even if they were previously an invited guest. Once you give the unruly friend or extended family member notice that they are no longer welcome and they refuse to leave, the person becomes a trespasser. You may then use force, but not deadly force, to remove the individual from your property. On most occasions, this use of force will take the form of physically escorting or removing the individual.
WHAT ABOUT AN UNINVITED PERSON?
Uninvited guests can range from someone completely innocent, like a neighborhood kid retrieving a ball from your yard, to someone a bit more sinister, like someone sneaking around your land at night or an unknown vehicle pulling up your driveway. Even when the situation looks sinister, so long as the person is not committing or attempting to commit any offense outside of their simple trespass, you may still only use force to remove them. In Texas, the continuum of force starts with verbal commands, continues with physical force against another, and may even include drawing or pointing your firearm. Keep in mind that the force you use against the trespasser must be that which an ordinary and prudent man would consider reasonable. There are situations in which drawing or pointing your firearm may be a reasonable use of force, but evaluate your situation carefully. Pointing your gun at a high schooler taking a shortcut through your property, or at the electric company’s meter reader may ultimately get you into legal hot water. Once you pull the trigger though, even as a “warning shot,” you have crossed the line into deadly force and may be arrested, charged, and convicted for that act.
SO YOU’RE TELLING ME I CAN’T SHOOT SOMEONE BREAKING INTO MY HOUSE?
No. This person is no longer a mere trespasser, and you can use the Castle Doctrine and personal protection deadly force laws. You are no longer protecting just your property; you are now protecting yourself or family.
A mere trespasser can quickly become a more dangerous threat, so it is crucial you understand the laws in your state. If you have any questions about this issue, contact Texas LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.