Purple Paint Laws

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Preparation for participating in outdoor activities this spring should include a refresher course on trespassing laws. Hunters and nature viewers should be aware that purple markings on trees and fence posts is one of the ways landowners identify private property where trespassing is prohibited.

Missouri's Purple Paint Statute of 1993 was designed as a simple way for landowners to protect their property rights. The law recognizes purple paint on trees and fence posts as a means of marking private property against trespass. It enables property owners to clearly identify the boundaries of their land without the expense and problems of erecting and maintaining fences and signs.

Landowners using paint to mark their property must place paint between three and five feet off the ground on trees and fence posts no more than 100 feet apart. The paint stains must be vertical lines at least eight inches long.

The bright purple stains can help prevent outdoors persons from unknowingly breaking the law. Often it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine where land you have permission to explore ends. When you find purple markings you will know to go no further without the permission of the landowner.

Trespass in the first degree is punishable by a fine of up to $500, a six-month jail sentence, or both. This charge is filed in cases where land has been adequately marked or fenced to prevent trespass. However, land does not have to be marked for trespassing for laws to be enforced. A charge of trespass in the second degree can be filed in cases where land is not marked. A fine of $200 is possible in such cases. It is the responsibility of each individual to determine ownership of a parcel of land and acquire permission before entering.

Landowners deserve the courtesy and respect any homeowner would expect to receive in their own yard. Look for and get permission before stepping onto property marked with purple paint.