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If I post "No Trespassing" signs on my property, does it mean ALL uninvited people are trespassers?

La Center, WA |

I have a problem with solicitors and religeous sects coming to my home uninvited. I live on 5 acres about 8 miles from the nearest town. I have had reposession people come to my house all hours of the night looking for someone I don't know because they were given the wrong address. I have asked them to not come on my property MANY times and yet they return. I call the police but the people are gone way before this "Non-priorty" call is responded to by any enforcement agency. I have called the repo agency and I'm pretty sure they think I am hiding someone. I bet they have a reason to be suspicious considering their clientele.
If I post signs, does it matter? Will that sign make them stop at the driveway and not enter because I mean business?!

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Attorney answers 2

Best Answer

A sign matters.

Criminal trespass is defined as "knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in or upon premises of another." RCW 9A.52.080. So the two typical questions a jury would have to answer is whether or not the entry or remainder was "unlawful"--i.e. did the person entering have lawful authority to be on your property--and whether the unlawful entry or remainder was "knowing." The "unlawful" bit usually has to do with whether permission, implied or explicit, was granted. [It may also have to do with other things; a police officer with a valid search warrant for your property is not entering unlawfully, even if you tell him to leave.]

But in your situation, you've got a private residence, where a person rarely has implied permission. [Contrast with a publicly-accessible commercial parking lot during usual business operating hours.] So unless these people were told by you (or someone else with a right to be on your property, like a tenant) they're welcome, their presence is probably unlawful.

The rub of your question, though, gets to the "knowledge" requirement. A person can always argue to the jury he "reasonably believed that the owner of the premises, or other person empowered to license access thereto, would have licensed him to enter or remain." See RCW 9A.52.090. And if there's a big sign saying "no trespassing" or "no solicitors" or the like, the likelihood a jury would believe he didn't know he wasn't allowed to enter or remain goes down sharply.

Will the sign make them stop at the driveway and not enter? Perhaps. But if it doesn't, there may be more evidence for the prosecutor, and that may make them more likely to pursue a case against those that trespass on your property.

Keep in mind that just because you’re reading this answer does not make me your attorney, and therefore nothing written here constitutes legal advice targeted at your situation. Because the law is so often fact-sensitive, you’d be remiss in relying on anything I write without having spoken with me first, and I’d ask you not to do that. If you have any specific questions, give me a call at (360) 352-8004, or contact me directly via email at, and I'll try and help you out.


You can post your property. Some folks have a right to enter, for example, the meter reader. Religious missionaries are probably not going to get high police priority. We have had scam solicitors here who looked very suspicious to me, and I ordered them off. The dog has ordered others off. I suggest the repo guys are approaching harassment. Letters are better than calls.

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