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What are “purple paint” laws?

On Behalf of | Sep 8, 2023 | Criminal Defense

If you’re wandering through the woods and see lines of purple paint on trees, posts or other objects, it’s wise to turn back. Unfortunately, many people don’t know what they represent. 

Both Missouri and Kansas, along with some other states, have what are known as “purple paint” laws. These statutes allow property owners to mark the boundaries of their land with lines of purple paint as a notice to potential trespassers to stay out.

Purple paint requirements

Both Kansas and Missouri laws provide requirements for owners or tenants to mark their property in order for the markings to be recognized under the law as a “No trespassing” notification. Essentially, the markings must be easily visible. That’s one reason for choosing the color purple.) 

In both states, to be considered a “no trespassing” notification, the lines must be a minimum of 8 inches long and between 3 and 5 feet above the ground. Missouri law also states that they must be separated by no more than 100 feet.

Violations can lead to trespassing charges

Of course, purple paint marks are just one means of notifying people that no trespassing is allowed on a property. No trespassing signs as well as fences and walls do the same. Many landowners prefer the paint because it’s more permanent than a sign that can be stolen or blown away in a storm and less expensive than a fence. Those who don’t abide by any of these notifications can be charged with trespassing.

What if you didn’t know what the lines meant and you unintentionally trespassed? Generally, ignorance of the law is not a valid defense. The consequences would likely depend in part on what happened after you went onto someone else’s property by mistake. If you harmed an animal or took something, that would be yet another offense. If you did no harm and left when you were told to leave or realized you were on someone’s private property, many property owners wouldn’t call law enforcement. 

You never know these days how a property owner is going to react when someone steps on their property by mistake. Unfortunately, sometimes that reaction is to shoot the person who’s inadvertently trespassing.

If you’re facing trespassing charges, regardless of the situation, you should take the matter seriously. Having legal guidance can help you protect your rights and work to lessen the consequences.