Trespass is the illegal entry onto property belonging to another. "No Trespassing" signs are a preventive measure property owners use to protect residential, business or natural land properties from unauthorised entrants, or trespassers. State law governs the crime of trespass as well as the requirements for posting no trespassing signs in the state. Laws on the distance between "No Trespassing" signs, therefore, vary by state as well as by the type of land to which the signs are directed.
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Overview: Trespass and "No Trespassing" Signs
In most states and under most circumstances, trespass is a crime regardless of whether property owners post signs expressly prohibiting it. However, property owners are strongly advised to post "No Trespassing" signs to most effectively protect their land from trespass. In addition, they should follow their states' respective posting procedures, including rules governing the distance between signs, to ensure potential entrants are adequately warned against trespassing and any unauthorised entry that does occur will be deemed an unlawful trespass. For example, it may be difficult to prove a trespasser willingly and knowingly committed a crime unless the owner has properly posted signs lawfully identifying her property. Finally, while the rules governing distancing of signs depend on the state, there are certain common requirements of which property owners should be aware.
Location and Quantity of "No Trespassing" Signs
State posting laws typically require "No Trespassing" signs be posted along the boundaries of the property at certain intervals. They also, to varying degrees, require signs be posted closely together, relative to the size of the property to be protected. For example, while a single sign may suffice for small, gated residential property, more signs will likely be necessary for more open, less obviously restricted plots of land. For example, under Maine law, property owners must post signs no less than 100 feet apart as a condition for the property to be deemed legally posted against trespassers. Other states impose different specific distancing requirements, but as a rule of thumb property owners should make sure that: (1) there is a sign visible from every possible entry point onto the land; and (2) there is a sign readily identifiable from the nearest sign on all sides.
Considerations Specific to Certain Property Types and Uses
In some states, there are specific types of property and categories of entrants to which particular rules for No Trespassing signs apply. For example, some states permit hunters, fishermen, or hikers to access another's private land without permission and will not deem these entries unlawful trespass unless the owner has expressly posted signs to lawfully close the property to these uses. Moreover, in these situations, the owner must follow the state's applicable posting procedure exactly.
State laws in these contexts vary considerably, including the requisite distance between "No Trespassing" signs. In Arizona, for example, hunters have the right to go onto private land without prior authorisation unless the land is properly posted, which requires, among other things, the owner post signs at all points of vehicular access to the property, at property and fence corners and at intervals of no less than 1/4 mile along the fence. In other states, however, hunters must get permission before accessing private land, regardless of whether the owner has posted any signs whatsoever.
Finding State-Specific Requirements for Posting "No Trespassing" Signs
There are several resources providing information on applicable state laws regulating the proper distancing between signs. To find the law on trespass and sign requirements generally, consult the state's civil and criminal codes and statutes. To find the law on trespass and sign requirements in connection with hunting, fishing, and hiking land uses, contact the state agencies that issue licenses for those activities.
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