Maryland Trespassing Laws: What You Need to Know

Maryland: Fast Facts on Trespassing

  • Trespass Law Covers: Buildings, Land
  • Crime Class: Misdemeanor
  • Fencing Required?: No.
  • Signage Required?: Yes.
  • Verbal Notice Required?: Only in specific circumstances if signage not posted.
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Maryland Trespassing Law Overview

Maryland is a peculiar state when it comes to trespassing. The state statutes mandate a fairly strict reliance on posted signs for trespassing law to take effect, and though they are clearly written and easy to understand, the trespassing laws seem fairly vague and leave a considerable amount to the imagination or interpretation.

Lacking an abundance of definitions or clarifications in the body of the text, it’s hard to say exactly where trespassing stops and starts, or even if it would be considered a crime in certain circumstances.

The smart thing to do if you are worried about trespassing in Maryland is to hire and consult a knowledgeable attorney in that state who is fluent with trespassing trial and case law.

Relevant Maryland State Statutes

  • Section 6-401 Definitions
  • Section 6-402 Trespass on Posted Property
  • Section 6-403 Wanton Trespass on Private Property
  • Section 6-404 Use of a Vehicle on Private Property
  • Section 6-405 Use of an Off-Road Vehicle on Public Property
  • Section 6-406 Wanton Entry on Cultivated Land
  • Section 6-407 Trespass in Stable Area of Racetrack
  • Section 6-408 Entry on Property for Purpose of Invading Privacy of Occupants
  • Section 6-409 Refusal or Failure to Leave Public Building or Grounds
  • Section 6-410 Wanton Trespass on Property of Government House

In keeping with my typical format for these trespassing articles we will begin at the beginning; in other words, we will start with the definitions. Maryland’s definition section is very short, and only contains one or two definitions you should concern yourself with since they are part and parcel of understanding a particular section later on. You’ll see it here in section 6-401:

6-401. Definitions

(a) In general. — In this subtitle the following words have the meanings indicated.

(b) Off-road vehicle. —

(1) “Off-road vehicle” means a motorized vehicle designed for or capable of cross-country travel on or immediately over land, water, snow, ice, marsh, swampland, or other natural terrain.

(2) “Off-road vehicle” includes:

(i) a four-wheel drive or low-pressure-tire vehicle;

(ii) a motorcycle or a related two-wheel vehicle;

(iii) an amphibious machine;

(iv) a ground-effect vehicle; and

(v) an air-cushion vehicle.

(c) Vehicle. — “Vehicle” has the meaning stated in § 11-176 of the Transportation Article.


As you can see, the specific definition of off-road vehicle becomes important, as Maryland has lavished uncharacteristic detail on defining it. That definition includes any kind of motorized vehicle, but specifically omits mention of any human powered vehicle, like a bicycle.

The next section, 6-402, is the meat and potatoes of Maryland trespass law if you want to call it that, even though it is as bland and vague as the rest of the passages in the statutes:

6-402. Trespass on posted property

(a) Prohibited. — A person may not enter or trespass on property that is posted conspicuously against trespass by:

(1) signs placed where they reasonably may be seen; or

(2) paint marks that:

(i) conform with regulations that the Department of Natural Resources adopts under § 5-209 of the Natural Resources Article; and

(ii) are made on trees or posts that are located:

1. at each road entrance to the property; and

2. adjacent to public roadways, public waterways, and other land adjoining the property.

(b) Penalty. — A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to:

(1) for a first violation, imprisonment not exceeding 90 days or a fine not exceeding $ 500 or both;

(2) for a second violation occurring within 2 years after the first violation, imprisonment not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding $ 1,000 or both; and

(3) for each subsequent violation occurring within 2 years after the preceding violation, imprisonment not exceeding 1 year or a fine not exceeding $ 2,500 or both.


If that section seems conspicuously bereft of specific details regarding the type of property being trespassed upon and under what conditions according to what permissions, you are definitely paying attention.

But I regret to inform you that you are not reading it wrong. The key absolute for determining whether or not someone is trespassing is if they are on a property that does not belong to them, and has signage or marks in accordance with the state regulations posted along the perimeter and at normal entryways onto the property.

Yes, this is very vague and lacking in necessarily specific details compared to other states. No, it would not take much in the way of imagination to confound or figure out loopholes for this section. I wish I knew what to tell you, but this is the letter of the law regarding trespassing in Maryland.

The next section, 6-403, covers wanton trespass on private property, which is nebulously similar to the first section although worded differently and sadly with no more detail or clarity:

6-403. Wanton trespass on private property

(a) Prohibited — Entering and crossing property. — A person may not enter or cross over private property or board the boat or other marine vessel of another, after having been notified by the owner or the owner’s agent not to do so, unless entering or crossing under a good faith claim of right or ownership.

(b) Prohibited — Remaining on property. — A person may not remain on private property including the boat or other marine vessel of another, after having been notified by the owner or the owner’s agent not to do so.

(c) Penalty. — A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to:

(1) for a first violation, imprisonment not exceeding 90 days or a fine not exceeding $ 500 or both;

(2) for a second violation occurring within 2 years after the first violation, imprisonment not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding $ 1,000 or both; and

(3) for each subsequent violation occurring within 2 years after the preceding violation, imprisonment not exceeding 1 year or a fine not exceeding $ 2,500 or both.

(d) Construction of section. — This section prohibits only wanton entry on private property.

(e) Applicability to housing projects. — This section also applies to property that is used as a housing project and operated by a housing authority or State public body, as those terms are defined in Division II of the Housing and Community Development Article, if an authorized agent of the housing authority or State public body gives the required notice specified in subsection (a) or (b) of this section.


So, barring a good faith claim of right of ownership, you may not enter or remain upon the property or boat of another person, or cross the property or board the boat of another person, after being specifically told that you may not do so by the owner of said property or boat or the owner’s agent.

The latter part of the section details the penalty schedule for doing so. Again, this is extremely fuzzy, but I have quoted the relevant section verbatim. Make of it what you will.

Next is a brief section covering the use of a vehicle on private property:

6-404. Use of a vehicle on private property

(a) Scope of section. — This section does not apply to:

(1) a vessel;

(2) a military, fire, or law enforcement vehicle;

(3) a farm-type tractor, other agricultural equipment used for agricultural purposes, or construction equipment used for agricultural purposes or earth moving;

(4) earth-moving or construction equipment used for those purposes; or

(5) a lawn mower, snowblower, garden or lawn tractor, or golf cart while being used for its designed purpose.

(b) Prohibited. — Except when traveling on a clearly designated private driveway, a person may not use a vehicle or off-road vehicle on private property unless the person has in the person’s possession the written permission of the owner or tenant of the private property.

(c) Penalty. — A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 90 days or a fine not exceeding $ 500 or both.


The only thing you need to take away from this section is that you may not use any motorized vehicle or any off-road vehicle on private property that is not your own unless you have in your possession the written permission of the owner or the tenant of the private property. The law is specific: you must have written permission in your possession.

Now on to a related section; 6-405, which covers use of an off-road vehicle on any public property.

6-405. Use of an off-road vehicle on public property

(a) “Political subdivision” defined. — In this section, “political subdivision” includes a:

(1) county;

(2) municipal corporation;

(3) bicounty or multicounty agency;

(4) county board of education;

(5) public authority; or

(6) special taxing district.

(b) Scope of section. — This section does not apply to:

(1) a vessel;

(2) a military, fire, or law enforcement vehicle;

(3) a farm-type tractor, other agricultural equipment used for agricultural purposes, or construction equipment used for agricultural purposes or earth moving;

(4) earth-moving or construction equipment used for those purposes; or

(5) a lawn mower, snowblower, garden or lawn tractor, or golf cart while being used for its designed purpose.

(c) Prohibited. — Except as otherwise allowed by law, a person may not use an off-road vehicle on property known by the person to be owned or leased by the State or a political subdivision.

(d) Penalty. — A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 90 days or a fine not exceeding $ 500 or both.


No exceptions to this one , at least any that would apply to you or I: You may not in any way except as otherwise allowed by law drive any off-road vehicle as defined at the very beginning of this chapter on any property that is known by you to be owned or leased by the state of Maryland or any political subdivision.

Oddly specific, but okay. The next section covers wanton entry on to cultivated land, which is very similar to the previously covered section describing the crime of wanton entry on private property. See 6-406:

6-406. Wanton entry on cultivated land

(a) “Cultivated land” defined. — “Cultivated land” means land that has been cleared of its natural vegetation and is currently planted with a crop or orchard.

(b) Prohibited. — Unless a person has permission from the owner of cultivated land or an agent of the owner, a person may not enter on the cultivated land of another.

(c) Penalty. — A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 90 days or a fine not exceeding $ 500 or both.

(d) Construction of section. — This section:

(1) prohibits only wanton entry on cultivated land; and

(2) does not:

(i) prevent a person who resides on cultivated land from receiving a person who seeks to provide a lawful service; or

(ii) apply to a person entering cultivated land under color of law or color of title.


Unless you are doing so at the explicit request of the owner of cultivated farmland or cropland, you may not enter said cultivated land for any reason.

Section 6-407 is another strangely specific passage in the otherwise sparse and flimsy trespassing laws of Maryland, this time covering trespassing in the stable area of a racetrack:

§ 6-407. Trespass in stable area of racetrack

(a) Prohibited. — A person may not enter or remain in the stable area of a racetrack after being notified by a racetrack official, security guard, or law enforcement officer that the person is not allowed in the stable area.

(b) Penalty. — A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 90 days or a fine not exceeding $ 500 or both.


So you may be in the stable area of a race track without committing trespass, but once you were told to leave by any official or employee of the racetrack, a contracted security guard or any law enforcement official you have to leave or else you will be trespassed.

The next section is Maryland’s version of the common “Peeping Tom” law. See 6-408:

6-408. Entry on property for purpose of invading privacy of occupants

(a) Prohibited. — A person may not enter on the property of another for the purpose of invading the privacy of an occupant of a building or enclosure located on the property by looking into a window, door, or other opening.

(b) Penalty. — A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 90 days or a fine not exceeding $ 500 or both.


That is just about as clear as it gets. Any person who enters the property of another for the purposes of looking into a building via a window, door or other opening is guilty of entry on property for purposes of invading the privacy of the occupants.

It is a misdemeanor and conviction will get you imprisoned for up to 90 days and a $500 fine. You will also be branded a complete creep by the townsfolk and hopefully run out of the place on a rail.

Our next section covers refusal to leave a public building or grounds when your permission to be there is revoked, section 6-409:

6-409. Refusal or failure to leave public building or grounds

(a) Prohibited — During regularly closed hours. — A person may not refuse or fail to leave a public building or grounds, or a specific part of a public building or grounds, during the time when the public building or grounds, or specific part of the public building or grounds, is regularly closed to the public if:

(1) the surrounding circumstances would indicate to a reasonable person that the person who refuses or fails to leave has no apparent lawful business to pursue at the public building or grounds; and

(2) a regularly employed guard, watchman, or other authorized employee of the government unit that owns, operates, or maintains the public building or grounds asks the person to leave.

(b) Prohibited — During regular business hours. — A person may not refuse or fail to leave a public building or grounds, or a specific part of a public building or grounds, during regular business hours if:

(1) the surrounding circumstances would indicate to a reasonable person that the person who refuses or fails to leave:

(i) has no apparent lawful business to pursue at the public building or grounds; or

(ii) is acting in a manner disruptive of and disturbing to the conduct of normal business by the government unit that owns, operates, or maintains the public building or grounds; and

(2) an authorized employee of the government unit asks the person to leave.

(c) Penalty. — A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding $ 1,000 or both.


Don’t over think this one. If you are asked to leave any public building or grounds for any reason by a law enforcement officer or an employee or official of those grounds or building you have to leave or else you will be trespassed. That is it.

Of particular interest is the penalty for being convicted of this crime- up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. That is twice as much as being convicted of being a Peeping Tom according to the previous section! Wonders never cease.

The next and final section details wanted trespass on the property of Government house:

6-410. Wanton trespass on property of Government House

(a) Prohibited. — A person may not commit wanton trespass on the property of Government House.

(b) Posting not necessary. — Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the property of Government House need not be posted against trespass.

(c) Penalty. — A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding $ 1,000 or both.


Any wanton trespass of the property of government house property is a misdemeanor that will get you a pretty stiff sentence of six months and a fine of up to $1,000.

Also note that there is no posting of any sign or no trespassing markings required, in distinct contrast to the rest of Maryland’s laws.

Conclusion

The state of Maryland is home to some of the most nebulous, nonspecific and unhelpful trespassing laws in the nation.

As opposed to the lean, efficient language of some other states who don’t go heavy on the legalese, Maryland just has state statutes that are clumsily written and leave an awful, awful lot up to interpretation.

Additionally, Maryland features a heavy reliance on strict signage and marking guidelines in order for trespassing to apply. Not a good position to be in if you are a property owner or someone who has potentially, accidentally, trespassed.

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