Montana State Trespassing Laws

Understanding the trespassing laws of any state where you live, own property, or travel is essential.

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You’ll need to understand the trespassing laws so that you know precisely what your rights are when it comes to keeping other people off your properties, whether they are developed or not, but also so that you do not inadvertently trespass on the lands of others.

Trespassing is usually thought of as a minor crime, if that, by most people but the punishments can be severe depending on the circumstances.

The good news is that if you have any land or property in Montana you should have a pretty easy time of things.

Like most of Montana’s laws, the statutes covering trespassing are very straightforward and easy to understand.

The law is also notable for the nearly mandatory nature of no-trespassing signage if you want the law to back you up when it comes to keeping people off of your property.

We will tell you all about that and a whole lot more in this article.

Montana Trespassing Law Overview

  • Trespassing law in Montana is heavily dependent upon appropriately worded and posted signage.
  • Criminal trespass typically entails a fine and a jail stay of up to 6 months if convicted, absent any other crimes.
  • Montana has a separate statue covering unlawful trespass in a vehicle belonging to another person.

What Constitutes Trespassing in Montana?

Montana law defines trespassing broadly as entering or remaining unlawfully, and specifically stated it is when any person that is not licensed, invited, or otherwise privileged by permission or law enters or remains upon any land belonging to someone else, or having had a permission or privilege remains upon or in property or premises after that permission or privilege is revoked.

Simply stated, you must have the law backing you up or the explicit permission from the property owner or the property owner’s agent if you want to be there, and even if you had permission you have to leave if they tell you to go or otherwise revoke that permission.

There is a notable exception to this concerning specific notice if the property owner does not have the property posted with the appropriate signage against trespassing. More on that in a moment.

For now, you can read the exact excerpt from the statutes in section 45-6-201 and 45-6-203, printed below for your convenience:

45-6-201. Definition of enter or remain unlawfully.(1) A person enters or remains unlawfully in or upon any vehicle, occupied structure, or premises when the person is not licensed, invited, or otherwise privileged to do so. Privilege to enter or remain upon land is extended either by the explicit permission of the landowner or other authorized person or by the failure of the landowner or other authorized person to post notice denying entry onto private land. The privilege may be revoked at any time by personal communication of notice by the landowner or other authorized person to the entering person.45-6-203. Criminal trespass to property.(1) Except as provided in 15-7-139, 70-16-111, and 76-13-116, a person commits the offense of criminal trespass to property if the person knowingly:(a) enters or remains unlawfully in an occupied structure; or(b) enters or remains unlawfully in or upon the premises of another.(2) A person convicted of the offense of criminal trespass to property shall be fined not to exceed $500 or be imprisoned in the county jail for any term not to exceed 6 months, or both.

Does Montana Require “No Trespassing” Signs?

Yes, and Montana is notable for a highly strict reliance upon posting property against trespassers if a property owner wants to protect their property, whatever it is, against unwanted entry without the obligation to give specific notice.

In short, a notice against trespassing must be placed on a post, structure, or natural object at each outer gate or entry point onto the property if the public has no right of way through this privately owned property.

For properties that do have a public right of way, specific verbiage must be on the signs at a certain distance from the road and at certain intervals that states the property is private and there is no trespassing allowed off-road.

Only by following these specific instructions can private property be legally closed to public access by penalty of trespass barring specific notice being given to an individual.

It might sound highly specific, and compared to some states it is, but it is nonetheless pretty easy to understand. The relevant sections from 45-6-201 have been copied below:

45-6-201. Definition of enter or remain unlawfully.(2) To provide for effective posting of private land through which the public has no right-of-way, the notice provided for in subsection (1) must satisfy the following requirements:(a) notice must be placed on a post, structure, or natural object by marking it with written notice or with not less than 50 square inches of fluorescent orange paint, except that when metal fenceposts are used, the entire post must be painted; and(b) the notice described in subsection (2)(a) must be placed at each outer gate and normal point of access to the property, including both sides of a water body crossing the property wherever the water body intersects an outer boundary line.(3) To provide for effective posting of private land through which or along which the public has an unfenced right-of-way by means of a public road, a landowner shall:(a) place a conspicuous sign no closer than 30 feet of the centerline of the roadway where it enters the private land, stating words substantially similar to “PRIVATE PROPERTY, NO TRESPASSING OFF ROAD NEXT ___ MILES”; or(b) place notice, as described in subsection (2)(a), no closer than 30 feet of the centerline of the roadway at regular intervals of not less than one-fourth mile along the roadway where it borders unfenced private land, except that orange markings may not be placed on posts where the public roadway enters the private land.(4) If property has been posted in substantial compliance with subsection (2) or (3), it is considered closed to public access unless explicit permission to enter is given by the landowner or the landowner’s authorized agent.

Is Fencing Required to Protect Property?

No, though fence posts that have been painted orange may serve as a notice against trespass in place of posted signage. See the next section.

What Other Marks Indicate “No Trespassing”?

Montana is one of several states that have what are commonly called “purple paint” laws for the posting of property against trespassing.

Only in Montana’s case the color of paint that is required is high visibility orange, not purple!

When using paint to post land against trespassing, a fence post, structure or natural object must be painted with not less than 50 square inches of fluorescent, high-visibility orange paint, with the notable exception that metal fence posts must be painted entirely in this color.

As with posting signage, this must be done at each outer gate or other access point to the property and on both sides of any body of water that crosses the property at a boundary line.

The relevant sections detailed above concerning signage also describe the requirements of using orange paint in this way. Reread 45-6-201 if required.

Can Solicitors Ignore “No Trespassing” Signs?

Generally not, though approaching someone’s front door in an effort to sell them something might count as obtaining the owner’s permission to be there for the purpose, in which case so long as the solicitor leaves after having been told off they’re probably won’t be any fallout for them.

However, solicitors may never enter a property in defiance of closed and secured gates, doors, and other barriers to entry, and this behavior is generally highly frowned upon the more remote and rural a property is.

Can Trespassing Result in Arrest in Montana?

Yes. Montana does not pull punches when it concerns trespassing and flagrant defiance of posted no-trespassing signage or the equivalent orange paint markings.

Violators can expect to be fined up to $500 and potentially facing a 6-month stay in jail for their lack of discretion.

Can You Take Someone to Court for Trespassing?

Yes. Especially if their trespassing results in any damage to property, violation of privacy, or breach of quiet domain.

Special Instances of Trespassing in Montana

It is a small one, but Montana codifies criminal trespassing in a vehicle in its own separate statute 45-6-202.

The penalties are the same as criminal trespass upon land, but it is worth looking up to see the state’s precise definition.

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