North Carolina State Trespassing Laws

Understanding a given state’s trespassing laws is vital if you want to avoid accidentally trespassing on the land of someone else when you are out adventuring in nature, and also if you want to protect your property against trespassers.

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Across America, trespassing laws are broadly similar from state to state, but as you might imagine there are still a lot of nuanced differences you’ll need to be aware of.

To do that, you’ll need to dig into the state statutes covering trespassing.

When it comes to North Carolina, unfortunately there are tons and tons of such laws, but today we are providing you with a handy guide that will help to get you up to speed on the most important concepts.

We will also be including excerpts of the statutes themselves for you to review.

North Carolina Trespassing Law Overview

  • Unlawfully entering any structure or fenced, and closed or posted lands belonging to another person is a misdemeanor and potentially a felony in North Carolina.
  • North Carolina requires posted signage or specific paint markings around the boundaries of a property and certain waterways.
  • North Carolina has many statutes covering various circumstances on trespassing. Make sure you are familiar with all of them!

What Constitutes Trespassing in North Carolina?

North Carolina defines trespassing as entering or remaining in or on the property of another without authorization.

From there, it specifically qualifies trespassing in various degrees depending on the type of the property, the circumstances surrounding the trespassing, and whether or not the property was posted, enclosed, or some other type of protected or secured area.

Once again, as mentioned above there are many statutes that cover trespassing in all of its many forms within North Carolina.

It is imperative that you familiarize yourself with all of them, particularly if you own property yourself or if you routinely go out hunting, hiking, camping, or scouting bug-out routes.

Below are the most relevant portions of sections 14-159.12 and 14-159.13. Again, these are only excerpts, not complete, so make sure you look up these statutes in their entirety and learn them:

14-159.12. First degree trespass.(a) Offense. – A person commits the offense of first degree trespass if, without authorization, he enters or remains:(1) On premises of another so enclosed or secured as to demonstrate clearly an intent to keep out intruders;(2) In a building of another; or(3) On the lands of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians after the person has been excluded by a resolution passed by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian Tribal Council.(b) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (c), (d), or (f) of this section, first degree trespass is a Class 2 misdemeanor.(…)14-159.13. Second degree trespass.(a) Offense. – A person commits the offense of second degree trespass if, without authorization, he enters or remains on premises of another:(1) After he has been notified not to enter or remain there by the owner, by a person in charge of the premises, by a lawful occupant, or by another authorized person; or(2) That are posted, in a manner reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders, with notice not to enter the premises.(b) Classification. – Second degree trespass is a Class 3 misdemeanor.(…)

Does North Carolina Require “No Trespassing” Signs?

No-trespassing signage is not specifically required for the protection of the law in North Carolina, but it is highly recommended as it will qualify trespassing as a more serious degree.

Whatever kind of property you are protecting, be it vacant land or residential property, it is a good idea to put up no-trespassing signs.

However, North Carolina, like so many states these days, has specific requirements for the size, positioning, and interval of these signs: you’ll need to post at least one sign on every side of your property, at every corner of your property and no further apart than at 200 yards from the next sign, for starters.

You can read about the bulk of these regulations in section 14-159.7:

14-159.7. Regulations as to posting of property.

For purposes of posting property under G.S. 14-159.7, the owner or lessee of the property may use either of the following methods:(1) The owner or lessee of the property may place notices, signs, or posters on the property. The notices, signs or posters shall measure not less than 120 square inches and shall be conspicuously posted on private lands not more than 200 yards apart close to and along the boundaries. At least one such notice, sign, or poster shall be posted on each side of such land, and one at each corner thereof, provided that said corner can be reasonably ascertained. For the purpose of prohibiting fishing, or the taking of fish by any means, in any stream, lake, or pond, it shall only be necessary that the signs, notices, or posters be posted along the stream or shoreline of a pond or lake at intervals of not more than 200 yards apart.(…)

Is Fencing Required to Protect Property?

No. But like signage it is a good idea, particularly if you are not posting no-trespassing signs.

This is because a person who trespasses on property that is protected or enclosed in such a way as to manifestly exclude intruders in the form of foot or vehicle traffic will be facing stiffer charges compared to if they had just walked on to unfenced and unposted property.

What Other Marks Indicate “No Trespassing”?

Paint markings. North Carolina is one of a few states that allow the use of paint markings on trees, fence posts, or other features to post a property and give notice against trespassing.

Note that just like signage, there are specific requirements for the size, placement, interval, and in this case the color of the marks.

North Carolina requires purple paint as do most other states that have these laws on the books. That is why they are so commonly referred to as “purple paint” laws.

If you want to use purple paint markings in place of signage, make sure you follow the regulations and requirements to the letter if you want the law to back you up.

14-159.7. Regulations as to posting of property.

(…)(2) The owner or lessee of the property may place identifying purple paint marks on trees or posts around the area to be posted. Each paint mark shall be a vertical line of at least eight inches in length, and the bottom of the mark shall be no less than three feet nor more than five feet from the base of the tree or post. The paint marks shall be placed no more than 100 yards apart and shall be readily visible to any person approaching the property. For the purpose of prohibiting fishing, or the taking of fish by any means, in any stream, lake, or pond, it shall only be necessary that the paint marks be placed along the stream or shoreline of a pond or lake at intervals of not more than 100 yards apart.

Can Solicitors Ignore “No Trespassing” Signs?

Nominally no, but solicitors will rarely face any trouble from the law in urban or suburban areas for ignoring a no-trespassing sign so long as they only approach the door to knock and ask for a little bit of your time.

If at that point, you tell them to leave then they have to leave.

However, solicitors may never simply ignore or circumvent a locked gate, fence, door, or other barriers to entry on the property.

Can Trespassing Result in Arrest in North Carolina?

Absolutely. Depending on the circumstances and the type of property that is being trespassed upon the trespasser will be looking at misdemeanor or felony charges, and either can and probably will result in arrest.

Can You Take Someone to Court for Trespassing?

Yes, you can. Especially when the trespassing results in damage to fencing, signage, plants, crops, or any other personal property if it violates your privacy.

If the trespassing is done in furtherance of another crime such as poaching or legal fishing, or if it is done in furtherance of harassment or stalking you definitely have a case.

Special Instances of Trespassing in North Carolina

North Carolina has several statutes, or partial statutes, devoted entirely to special instances of trespassing.

This covers everything from trespassing on land that is leased by the state or federal government, trespassing on or damaging a public school bus, trespassing for hunting, and so on.

Pretty much all of these statutes are scattered throughout chapter 14, so make sure you read the entirety of the chapter thoroughly so that you do not overlook any statute which is relevant to your interests or objectives.

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