Understanding the trespassing laws in the state where you reside, and any state where you own property, is important when it comes to protecting your rights.
It is just as important to understand the trespassing laws in any place where you might accidentally enter the property of someone else, such as on a camping or hunting trip.
Although the trespassing laws in the United States are fairly uniform from coast to coast, there is a considerable amount of variation when it comes to penalties and the specific requirements for posting land and residential properties.
Maryland is a state that is a little strange, considering the state has a fairly strict requirement about posting no-trespassing signage while simultaneously being somewhat vague concerning exactly what is and is not trespassing in certain conditions.
This article will help you make sense of the more confusing parts of the statutes.
Maryland Trespassing Law Overview
- Maryland has escalating punishments for repeat violations of the trespassing statutes, with longer fines and jail terms each time.
- Maryland requires posted signage or markings for protecting most types of land against trespassers.
- Maryland has several special statutes covering trespassing on cultivated land, using an off-road vehicle on private property, or the same kind of vehicle on public property.
What Constitutes Trespassing in Maryland?
In Maryland, trespasses are generally defined as entering, crossing, or remaining upon any property of another, including vehicles and conveyances of any kind, after having been notified by the owner or the owner’s agent that doing so is forbidden.
The only exceptions to this are if a person is entering or crossing under a good faith claim of right or ownership, and a few other specific exceptions that we aren’t covering here for brevity.
Sections 6-403 and 6-402 contain most of what your average citizen will need to know regarding trespassing on private property in Maryland.
An excerpt of 6-403 is below:
6-403. Wanton trespass on private property
(a) Prohibited — Entering and crossing property. — A person may not enter or cross over private property or board the boat or other marine vessel of another, after having been notified by the owner or the owner’s agent not to do so, unless entering or crossing under a good faith claim of right or ownership.
(b) Prohibited — Remaining on property. — A person may not remain on private property including the boat or other marine vessel of another, after having been notified by the owner or the owner’s agent not to do so.
Does Maryland Require “No Trespassing” Signs?
Yes, if you want the law to back you up when it comes to protecting your property and undeveloped land in particular, against trespassers.
6-402 states that no-trespassing signage must be placed where they are reasonably likely to be seen by a would-be trespasser.
6-402. Trespass on posted property
(a) Prohibited. — A person may not enter or trespass on property that is posted conspicuously against trespass by:
(1) signs placed where they reasonably may be seen; or
(2) paint marks that:
(i) conform with regulations that the Department of Natural Resources adopts under § 5-209 of the Natural Resources Article; and
(ii) are made on trees or posts that are located:
1. at each road entrance to the property; and
2. adjacent to public roadways, public waterways, and other land adjoining the property.
(b) Penalty. — A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to:
(1) for a first violation, imprisonment not exceeding 90 days or a fine not exceeding $ 500 or both;
(2) for a second violation occurring within 2 years after the first violation, imprisonment not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding $ 1,000 or both; and
(3) for each subsequent violation occurring within 2 years after the preceding violation, imprisonment not exceeding 1 year or a fine not exceeding $ 2,500 or both.
Is Fencing Required to Protect Property?
No. Maryland law is quite specific about the necessity of signage or paint markings for posting properties against trespassers, but makes precious little mention about fences, and the presence of fencing or other obstacles designed to bar foot or vehicle traffic does not factor into Maryland’s law concerning trespassing.
However, like most other times and in other states any trespasser that circumvents, damages, or destroys fencing, gates, locks, bollards, or any other barrier to entry might have just qualified their trespassing as breaking and entering depending on the circumstances and the type of property.
But such a discussion is beyond the scope of this article.
What Other Marks Indicate “No Trespassing”?
Maryland is one of several states that also allow property owners to Mark the boundaries of their property against trespassers using paint.
Commonly referred to as purple paint laws, Maryland it takes a somewhat different tack though they stick with the spirit of such laws by requiring blue paint instead of the more common purple.
Like most laws, the color and medium of the paint are specific, and the markings must be made and the style of a vertical stripe that is at least 2 in wide and 8 inches in length placed between 3 and 6 feet from the ground on a tree or post.
Anyone approaching the boundary of the property should be able to see such markings to their left and right from wherever they are standing.
Can Solicitors Ignore “No Trespassing” Signs?
No. In Maryland no one can ignore a no-trespassing sign unless they have the legal authority to do so.
This includes solicitors, and though the state does not generally make a point of prosecuting solicitors who violate such signage, it should be pointed out that any door knockers do so at their own discretion.
Can Trespassing Result in Arrest in Maryland?
Yes, though simple types of trespassing that do not result in damage or are done in the furtherance of another crime rarely results in an arrest.
Fines are far more common, but those who trespass repeatedly or flagrantly do risk arrest and jail time.
It should also be noted that trespassing in a public place by refusing to leave after being told to do so by staff or law enforcement can and usually will result in arrest.
Can You Take Someone to Court for Trespassing?
Yes, and especially if they show a pattern of such behavior, are trespassing maliciously or trespassing is associated with stalking or harassing behavior.
Special Instances of Trespassing in Maryland
Maryland has several special statutes covering specific types of criminal trespass, covering everything from the use of any sort of vehicle on private property, the use of off-road vehicles on public property or land, a wanton entry on cultivated land, and trespassing in the stable area of a racetrack.
Perhaps most notable is the entry on a property for the purposes of invading the privacy of occupants, section 6-408. This section refers to what is usually called a Peeping Tom law.
This is definitely scumbag behavior, but in Maryland it is only a misdemeanor that can result in jail time of up to 90 days and a fine that is not to exceed $500 or both as punishment.
The relevant part of a 6-408 is included below for your review:
6-408. Entry on property for purpose of invading privacy of occupants
(a) Prohibited. — A person may not enter on the property of another for the purpose of invading the privacy of an occupant of a building or enclosure located on the property by looking into a window, door, or other opening.
(b) Penalty. — A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 90 days or a fine not exceeding $ 500 or both.