Frequently Asked Questions: What Are Delaware and Pennsylvania’s Trespassing Laws?
Updated: Jul 9
Not too long ago, Paul did a post about Maryland trespassing laws and signage requirements. Since then, our team continues to get questions concerning properties in Delaware and Pennsylvania which house part, or even all, of a farm just across the Maryland state border. With this question coming up often and considering both of these states are right next-door, I have laid out each state’s laws and requirements in today’s post. You can also read Maryland’s trespassing laws and signage requirements here.
Pennsylvania provides two trespassing laws which pertain specifically to agriculture, agricultural trespassers, and agricultural biosecurity area trespassers. An agricultural trespasser can be one of two types. An agricultural trespasser commits an offense if, knowing they are not licensed or privileged to do so they: (1) enter or remain on any agricultural or other open lands when such lands are posted as prescribed by law or reasonably likely to come to their attention, or the lands are fenced or enclosed in a manner designed to exclude trespassers or confine domestic animals; OR (2) enter or remain on any agricultural or other open lands and defy an order not to enter or to leave that has been personally communicated to them by the owner of the lands or other authorized person.
An offense under the first kind of agricultural trespass is considered a third degree misdemeanor and is punishable by imprisonment for a term of not more than one year and a fine of not less than $250. The second type of agricultural trespass constitutes a second degree misdemeanor and is punishable by imprisonment for a term of not more than two years and a fine of not less than $500 nor more than $5,000.
“Agricultural or other open lands” under this law means any land on which agricultural activity or farming as defined in section 3309 which includes “public and private research activity, records, data and data-gathering equipment related to agricultural products as well as the commercial production of agricultural crops, livestock or livestock products, poultry or poultry products, trees and timber products, milk, eggs or dairy products, or fruits or other horticultural products.”
The second trespass law which pertains to agriculture in Pennsylvania is the agricultural biosecurity area trespasser. This is a person who enters an agricultural biosecurity area, knowing they are not licensed or privileged to do so. This offense constitutes a third degree misdemeanor. The agricultural biosecurity area trespasser can also be a person who knowingly or recklessly fails to perform reasonable measures for biosecurity which by posted notice are required to be performed for entry to the agricultural biosecurity area. This person would be guilty of a summary offense. If either of the offenses causes damage to or death of an animal or plant within an agricultural biosecurity area, that offense constitutes a first-degree misdemeanor.
Unlike Pennsylvania, Delaware has three degrees of criminal trespass and only one which applies specifically to agriculture. Delaware Code 821 is considered a violation and states a “person is guilty of criminal trespass in the third degree when the person knowingly enters or remains unlawfully upon real property.” Delaware Code 822 states “a person is guilty of criminal trespass in the second degree when the person knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a building or upon real property which is fenced or otherwise enclosed in a manner manifestly designed to exclude intruders.” This trespass is an unclassified misdemeanor and can result in a term of up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $575.
Lastly, Delaware Code 823 applies to agriculture and says that “a person is guilty of criminal trespass in the first degree when the person knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a dwelling or building used to shelter, house, milk, raise, feed, breed, study or exhibit animals.” This particular criminal trespass is a first degree class A misdemeanor, the most serious type of misdemeanor in Delaware punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,300. The court may also order the trespasser to pay restitution (repayment for any medical expenses, property damage, or other costs incurred by others as a result of the trespass).
Since there is no correct answer to “how many ‘no trespassing’ signs do I need to hang” Paul has a great checklist to follow to help determine where and how many “No Trespassing” signs will be best for your property. Each individual property, no matter which state it is in, will have its own specific needs for signage.