It is critical to know and understand property rights, both for yourself and on account of others. People have a right to quiet domain on their property, and some folks become positively unhinged if you knock on their door without a reason or an invitation.
Threats of trespassing typically get leveled in such cases. Is it trespassing just to knock on someone’s door?
No, the act of knocking on someone’s door is usually not trespassing. But, knocking on someone’s door while ignoring a “no trespassing” sign or other indicators is trespassing unless you have a reason or an invitation to be there.
Understanding what constitutes trespassing when approaching a home or other domicile will better inform your behavior when interacting with the property of others and also give you a better understanding of your own property rights when dealing with unknown contacts and unwanted visitors.
Bottom line up front: Knocking on someone’s door is usually not trespassing in and of itself, even if it happens in the middle of the night. Citizens generally have the right and there is a social expectation that you can approach the front door of someone’s home to knock on it in an attempt to summon them and talk to them.
It is worth pointing out that people are under no obligation whatsoever to open the door and talk to you for any reason if you are just another citizen.
Even police officers and other agency officials, acting without benefit of a warrant, can be ignored. People always have the right to choose who they will and will not interact with and the terms of that interaction.
However, just because you are approaching for an innocent and entirely legal reason does not mean you are entitled to remain on the property for any length of time whatsoever, and making the same approach under other circumstances could constitute trespassing, occasionally a serious crime, from the first step.
However, All Unprivileged Access is Technically Trespassing
Without delving into the byzantine and circuitous realm of tort law, it should be pointed out that all unprivileged access to another’s real property and especially their dwelling and the surrounding curtilage constitutes trespassing, or at its most charitable might consequence trespass in waiting.
If you step on someone’s property and they ask you to leave you have to or you can be charged with trespassing when the police arrive. Quite literally, you are trespassing from that moment forward that you are notified.
Even if you are invited on to the property at the express permission of the owner or the owner’s agent, the moment they tell you that you need to go, you must obey and leave.
Now, prior to this point we have been operating under the assumption that an owner has no posted signage or indicators warning against trespassing and that you are either invited or generally excused from approaching the front door to knock for any given purpose.
What happens if the owner does in fact have posted signage forbidding trespassing?
Disregard Signage at Your Own Peril
When you see those conspicuous no trespassing signs, or various colors of markings on trees, posts and other boundary features, usually purple in color, these fall under the purview of no trespassing signage.
Everything you need to know about them is in the name. If no trespassing signs are posted, or no trespassing markers are posted, you are not allowed to set foot on the property for any reason without the express permission or invitation of the owner or the owner’s authorized agent. Period!
The only exception is if you are a law enforcement or government official acting in the course of his official duty that would justify such trespass. Generally, no warrant, no entry, even for them.
But in your case, it doesn’t matter if you are going door to door to try and get the neighbors together to form a neighborhood watch, a mutual assistance group or anything else.
It doesn’t matter if your little kid is selling candy bars to raise funds for the school band. It doesn’t matter if you were going door to door selling vacuum cleaners.
No trespassing means no trespassing, and if you violate posted signage and the police are called you could potentially be arrested on the spot.
Most folks that have posted no trespassing signs will not take it well if you violate them, depend on that. Doing so could set you up for a boatload of trouble in the future.
Removal for Trespass upon Land Could Set Up Future Charges
So what happens if you knock on someone’s door and refuse to leave after being told to go away? What happens if you violate a no trespassing sign and the owner presses charges or calls the cops to remove you from the property?
Being removed and officially trespassed means you must not return to that property for any reason under force of law. Doing so generally means you can be charged for more serious crimes, ranging from harassment to assault depending on the context.
Being told to leave because you are trespassing is one thing, but being trespassed by law enforcement is another and will set you up for a bad outcome if you try to press your luck.
Note that one can be trespassed from businesses as well as from private property, so keep that in mind if you tie on one too many at your local Applebee’s and get thrown out. Going back for the next happy hour could see you hauled off to jail for a lengthy stay.
Knocking on someone’s door does not constitute trespassing in and of itself. However, if you do not have explicit permission or legal justification for being on someone else’s property you must leave when you are told to or else you will be trespassed.
Persisting in defiance of a trespass order means you can be charged with serious crimes. If any property owner has posted no trespassing markings or signage defying them to knock on their front door could see you trespassed immediately if they choose to press the issue.
In short, respect posted signs and do not linger on someone’s property if they don’t want to talk to you or tell you to go away.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.