This week’s blog topic has been motivated by a heated argument on a page I frequent on Facebook.  The topic is on signage we have all probably seen at one time or another or possibly even have one posted.

Trespassers will be shot—survivors will be shot again, Anyone found here at night will be found here in the morning, Never mind the dog, beware of the owner, If you can read this you are in my range, etc.etc.

Do these type signs give a trespasser fair warning, and give you the property owner a legal right to shoot or use deadly force? The answer, absolutely NOT…

Lets start with the Texas penal code.

Texas Penal Code – PENAL § 9.42. Deadly Force to Protect Property

A person is justified in using deadly force against another to protect land or tangible, movable property:

(1) if he would be justified in using force against the other under Section 9.41 ;  and

(2) when and to the degree he reasonably believes the deadly force is immediately necessary:

(A) to prevent the other’s imminent commission of arson, burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, theft during the nighttime, or criminal mischief during the nighttime;  or

(B) to prevent the other who is fleeing immediately after committing burglary, robbery, aggravated robbery, or theft during the nighttime from escaping with the property;  and

(3) he reasonably believes that:

(A) the land or property cannot be protected or recovered by any other means;  or

(B) the use of force other than deadly force to protect or recover the land or property would expose the actor or another to a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury.

As you can see trespassing is NOT a justifiable reason to use deadly force. If a person is trespassing on your property #1 call your local law enforcement agency.  You are not allowed to use deadly force unless you are imminent fear of serious bodily injury or death.

Some have suggested shoot a warning shot or wound the trespasser. So everyone understands, just producing a weapon of any kind is considered force. Pulling the trigger and or putting the weapon into its intended use is considered deady force even if you put a warning shot into the ground.

Now that we know using deadly force on a trespasser is breaking the law and a serious felony, let’s talk about the signs.  By posting signs such as the ones referenced above, you have in affect memorialized that you intend to break the law and shoot someone.

Even if the circumstances (night time, self defense, arson, etc) somehow play out in your favor criminally and you use deadly force but, you have a sign like listed above  posted:  you better hang on tight for the civil ride you are about to take. A civil lawyer will assuredly claim you pre meditated the action and have been trigger happy. You might win and you might not but do you have the funds to find out.

If you have issues with trespassers and wish to give legal notice a better option might be a sign that reads Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted. This way you have not posted you plan to break the law.

If you own a gun or especially if you legally carry a gun in Texas with a license you need to know that you know the laws that pertain to Use of Force, and Deadly Force.  Ignorance is no excuse if you pull the trigger when it is not justified by the law.  For those reading this outside of Texas I suggest you look up your own State’s penal codes.

My hope is no one reading this ever finds themselves in a situation to have to use force or deadly force but if you do I hope all know and understand the laws. Lets get the bad guys in prisons and not the misinformed good folks protecting themselves.

Thanks for reading and hope this gives all something to think about,


1 reply
  1. Leilani
    Leilani says:

    Very well explained Paul. I do hope people now understand the law and not think they can do what they think is right.
    The law is what it is and ingnorance of the law does not hold up with the jury in court.

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