What Does A Purple Fence Mean? (Find Out Now!)
You are out walking in some unfamiliar territory, and you suddenly come upon a row of fence posts painted purple. You find it curious that anyone would take the trouble to paint their fence posts so far from civilization. You wonder, what does a purple fence mean?
In about a dozen states in the United States, the purple marking indicates that property is posted against trespassing. These states have enacted laws allowing property owners to protect their property by signaling with the purple markings on fences and trees.
Ignoring these purple warning signs can have ominous and serious implications. Many of these states proscribe fines and jail time for anyone caught trespassing. Understanding these kinds of markings and signage is important for your safety if you enjoy exploring new territory.
The History of Purple Marking
Purple paint laws go back many years, and the enactment of the laws is a bit cloudy. In Texas, the first purple paint law passed in 1997. In Texas, ranches and farms are large, often requiring hundreds of miles of fence to enclose one property.
Landowners faced problems with maintaining printed no trespassing signs. Weather and vandalism made the job of keeping signs properly posted nearly impossible. Lawmakers devised the purple paint plan to offset some of these problems.
Painting fence posts purple is quick, easy, and inexpensive. The paint often lasts for decades and is highly visible in a ranch or large farm setting. You don’t find many purple fence posts occurring naturally.
Do the Purple Marks Have to be on Fence Posts?
Most states dictate where and how the purple marks must be applied. In general, the paint marks must be a minimum height above ground, minimum width, and length, and spaced a minimum number of feet apart.
The marks are applied to fence posts, trees, or other semi-permanent geological features. That means that markings on prominent boulders or rock outcroppings are legal.
What are the Penalties for Ignoring these Markings?
The penalties for trespassing vary from state to state. To be sure of what you may face if you charged with trespassing, you should check with a competent attorney in the state in question. In general, here are the states with purple paint laws and the criminal trespassing penalties.
The Alabama legislature passed its purple pain law in 2016. Ignoring purple paint marks and entering a properly can find you on the wrong side of a second-degree trespass charge and end you up in the county jail for three months
Arkansas has a wide range of penalties for trespassing. If the trespass is considered a Class A misdemeanor, the penalties can include a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. If criminal intent is found and you are convicted of A Class D felony, you can face up to six years in jail and fines of $10,000.
The laws in Arizona are a bit more complicated. Trespass comes in three flavors, first degree, second degree, and third degree. In most cases involving trespass beyond a fence line marked with purple paint are classed as third-degree felonies and are subject to six months in jail and fines of up to $2.500.
Florida imposes up to a one-year prison sentence and a $1,000 fine for anyone convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor. Even inadvertently wandering or entering a property not designated as a building and is properly marked as “no trespassing” will net this conviction.
Idaho passed its purple paint law in 2018. The first offense of criminal trespass gets you a $500 fine and six months in jail. Do it again and the penalties can go up to five years in jail and fines of $50,000. If you are hunting or fishing at the time of the trespass, you will have your permits to hunt and fish revoked for at least one year.
In general, trespass in Illinois is a Class B misdemeanor except when you trespass in a vehicle in an area used for growing crops or an orchard. In the latter case, the charge becomes a Class A misdemeanor. In Illinois, criminal trespass can get you 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Up the charge to a Class A misdemeanor, and your face even higher fines and more time in jail.
Criminal trespass in Kansas is defined as entering a property when there are signs or postings, where there are fences, locks, or other means of denying entry. A criminal trespass conviction in Kansas may result in at least 48 hours in jail up to six months
Entering an area marked by purple fence posts in Maine is considered a Class E Misdemeanor. A conviction on this level will set you up to a $1,000 fine and 180 days in jail.
Pass those purple fence posts in Maryland one time, and you can find yourself charged subject to spending 90 days in jail and a $500 fine. A second conviction can get you another six months in jail and another fine not to exceed $1,000.
The penalties in Missouri for trespass in the first degree will get you a $500 fine and six months in jail. Indulge in a second-degree trespass, and you can find yourself subject to a $200 fine.
Get a conviction for criminal trespass in Montana and you will be subject to $500 in fines and up to 6 months in jail.
Nebraska law doesn’t say much about trespassing. However, Nebraska does have its version of the purple paint law. In Nebraska, the paint must be red, not purple. Trespassing on marked land in Nebraska will leave you facing a Class 3 misdemeanor charge and three months in jail plus a $500 fine.
Nevada trespass law is relatively simple and straightforward. Get caught on someone else’s property that is properly marked and without permission, and you net a misdemeanor offense that carries up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Cross that purple fence line in North Carolina, and you could find yourself facing a charge of first-degree trespass. The judge could give you a fine of $1,000 and 60 days in the local lockup. Drop the charge to second-degree trespass, and you may face a $200 fine and 20 days in jail.
In Oregon, landowners must use orange paint to mark their property from trespass. Violating land marked with orange paint can garner up to a year in jail and a fine of $6,250. Other provisions in the Oregon trespass laws spell out special situations, such as when hunting or carrying a firearm and using a motor vehicle.
Tennessee trespass law mandates that the maximum penalty for a trespass offense is a Class C misdemeanor. A conviction will get you a $50 fine and up to 30 days in jail. Tennessee is one of the latest states to adopt a purple paint law for posting property.
In Texas, trespassing is either a Class B or Class C misdemeanor. Being found guilty of these charges could mean up to a $2,000 fine and 180 days in jail. If you hunt and carry your deer rifle or shotgun, the charge could be a Class A misdemeanor getting you a $4,000 fine and a year in jail.
Virginia considers crossing a property line properly marked by signs or paint to be a Class 1 misdemeanor. A conviction on this count can demand a fine of not more than $2,500 and a jail sentence not to exceed one year if you cause damage or harm to an individual while trespassing the penalties increase dramatically. You could be subject to a felony conviction.
West Virginia has had a purple paint law since 2016. Under the West Virginia trespass code, failure to adhere to the warnings of a purple fence, you could be subject to conviction of a misdemeanor and fined up to $500.
How does the Fence Have to be Marked?
Rules for marking fences with purple paint (or another color) vary. In general, the paint markings must be near the top of the fence post or about chest height. The markings must be big enough to be seen easily from a distance. In some states, the requirements are markings that are 8 inches wide and 12 inches tall.
The markings must occur at regular intervals. The most common distance we found was no more than 100 feet apart. The rule seems to be that the marks must be visible no matter where you stand along the fence line.
A few states require additional signs are roads and, in some instances, at the fence line corner. It is your responsibility to know and understand the trespass marking laws in your state or any state you visit. Failure to observe trespass postings can find you in more trouble than it is worth.
Be Aware and Be Observant
Even the most innocent hike can get you into trouble in today’s litigious society if you aren’t aware and observant of no trespass markings. Learn the local rules and regulations and, above all, follow the laws and rules.
If you must enter a posted area, contact the landowner, and politely ask permission. Explaining your interest and may get you permission to visit the property and make a new friend along the way.
Dennis is a retired firefighter with an extensive background in construction, home improvement, and remodeling. He worked in the trades part-time while serving as an active firefighter. On his retirement, he started a remodeling and home repair business, which he ran for several years.
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