Maine State Trespassing Laws

Pretty much everyone understands instinctively the importance of trespassing laws. Whenever somebody violates your property rights, be it around your home or just on your land, you feel it in your gut.

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Likewise, being a good neighbor and a good citizen means respecting the property rights of others, and to intelligently and ethically handle both of these theoretical scenarios you’ll need to understand your home state’s laws on trespassing.

These laws are usually similar from coast to coast, but as one would expect every state puts its own spin on them.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the state of Maine you will find a set of laws that is very difficult to interpret by those not already savvy in legal language.

Maine’s statutes covering trespassing are very lengthy, confusing, and seemingly repetitive, all of which make getting a straight answer challenging.

To help you better understand Maine’s trespassing laws we are bringing you a guide that will familiarize you with the most important concepts…

Maine Trespassing Law Overview

  • Signage, locks, and other barriers to entry are important under Maine’s statutes for qualifying criminal trespass.
  • In the case of signs, they must be posted in such a way that they conform with the state statutes but also that there is reasonably no way the trespasser could have missed them.
  • Paint markings are allowed as an alternative to signage for posting unimproved land against trespassing.

What Constitutes Trespassing in Maine?

In the State of Maine, trespassing is broadly defined as entering into any structure or any place of any kind, or a person may be lawfully excluded from doing so by the owner or the owner’s authorized agent without the express permission of the owner or owners agent or other legal authority.

Similarly, entering into any dwelling where a person does not have a license or privilege to enter is criminal trespassing with the same exceptions.

You can read about this fundamental concept in a section 402 of Maine’s state statutes.

Keep in mind this is only an excerpt- readers are highly encouraged to read the entirety of the statutes for themselves.

Specifically, there’s a considerable amount of detail regarding the necessity of posting signage or markings in a prescribed manner while ensuring that would-be trespassers could see them if you want to protect unimproved land against trespassers with the force of law.

The beginning of section 402 is copied here for your convenience:

§402. Criminal trespass

1.  A person is guilty of criminal trespass if, knowing that that person is not licensed or privileged to do so, that person:  A. Enters any dwelling place. Violation of this paragraph is a Class D crime;   B. Enters any structure that is locked or barred. Violation of this paragraph is a Class E crime;   C. Enters any place from which that person may lawfully be excluded and that is posted in accordance with subsection 4 or in a manner reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders or that is fenced or otherwise enclosed in a manner designed to exclude intruders. Violation of this paragraph is a Class E crime;   D. Remains in any place in defiance of a lawful order to leave that was personally communicated to that person by the owner or another authorized person. Violation of this paragraph is a Class E crime;  E. Enters any place in defiance of a lawful order not to enter that was personally communicated to that person by the owner or another authorized person. Violation of this paragraph is a Class E crime; or   …

Does Maine Require “No Trespassing” Signs?

Yes. Maine requires no-trespassing signage for any unimproved land or other areas that do not have obstacles around the perimeter to prevent entry.

As mentioned above, signage must be placed in accordance with Maine’s regulations for such and also placed in such a way that there is no way a reasonable person would believe that a trespasser did not see them before entering the property.

Is Fencing Required to Protect Property?

Yes, if signage is not posted around unimproved land or other property.

Maine, unlike some other states, is very big on the necessity of obstacles, signage, or markings around the perimeter of the property for trespassing laws, or at least more serious trespassing charges, to apply in the case of unlawful entry.

What Other Marks Indicate “No Trespassing”?

Vertical marks of purple paint. Maine is one of several states that has adopted so-called “purple paint” laws, which basically allow specific markings of purple paint (and sometimes other colors) to be used in place of posted no-trespassing signs to mark property, and unimproved or vacant property in particular.

Each state that uses these purple paint laws varies somewhat in the specifics of size, spacing, and so forth but all are broadly similar.

In the case of Maine, the paint must be purple, placed at eye level, and spaced no more than 100 feet apart on posts or trees.

You can read the exact text of these specific statutes below, and make sure to check out the other referenced sections for more technical info regarding these markings:

§402. Criminal trespass

…4.  For the purposes of subsection 1, paragraph C, property is posted if it is marked with signs or paint in compliance with this subsection. Proof that any posted sign or paint marking is actually seen by an intruder gives rise to a permissible inference under the Maine Rules of Evidence, Rule 303 that such posted sign or paint marking is posted in a manner reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders.A. Signs must indicate that access is prohibited, that access is prohibited without permission of the landowner or the landowner’s agent, or that access for a particular purpose is prohibited.B-1. Paint markings made pursuant to this paragraph mean that access is prohibited without permission of the landowner or the landowner’s agent. Paint markings made pursuant to this paragraph must consist of a conspicuous vertical line at least one inch in width and at least 8 inches in length and must be placed so that the bottoms of the marks are not less than 3 feet from the ground or more than 5 feet from the ground at locations that are readily visible to any person approaching the property and no more than 100 feet apart. Paint markings may be placed on trees, posts or stones as described in this paragraph. The Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Bureau of Forestry shall adopt rules to determine the color and type of paint that may be used to post property pursuant to this paragraph. Rules adopted pursuant to this paragraph are routine technical rules pursuant to Title 5, chapter 375, subchapter 2-A.C. Signs or paint must mark the property at intervals no greater than 100 feet and at all vehicular access entries from a public road.…

Can Solicitors Ignore “No Trespassing” Signs?

No. Generally, solicitors are not allowed to ignore no-trespassing signs, and if they do they will be doing so at their own peril.

On the other hand, Maine does not have a particularly sterling history of dealing with unsolicited door knockers in a harsh manner, so you might still have to expect a few sales people, pollsters, political canvassers, and the like at the usual times of the year even if you do have signage posted.

On the other hand, something like a bar or gate blocking access to your property can never be circumvented without legal trouble by solicitors, so do keep that in mind.

Can Trespassing Result in Arrest in Maine?

Yes. Although most forms of simple criminal trespass will typically only result in fines, aggravated trespassing, trespassing that results in damage or breach of a quiet domain, or any trespassing done by a habitual or repeat offender can certainly result in arrest, as can trespassing in a dwelling or other domicile.

Can You Take Someone to Court for Trespassing?

Yes. Although generally not advised in the cases of simple or mistaken trespassing, it is possible to take someone to court for damages or breach of peace when and where applicable.

Special Instances of Trespassing in Maine

There are many specialized laws covering trespassing in Maine, mostly considering bringing animals on private or public land and operating motor vehicles on the same. This especially concerns beaches in the latter case.

Keep in mind that more than 95% of the land in Maine is privately owned, so there are very few places you’ll be able to be that aren’t in private hands, and Maine is serious about protecting the rights of property owners from trespassing.

Before you do anything while out and about in your adventures or elsewhere on your travels, make sure what you are doing is illegal and you have the permission of property owners if required.

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