WHAT IS PROHIBITED CAMPING IN TEXAS?
The Texas law against prohibited camping criminalizes temporarily residing and setting up shelter in a public place without consent of the officer or agency in charge of the public place.
WHAT IS THE PROHIBITED CAMPING LAW IN TEXAS?
Tex. Penal Code § 48.05. PROHIBITED CAMPING.
(b) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly camps in a public place without the effective consent of the officer or agency having the legal duty or authority to manage the public place.
(c) The actor’s intent or knowledge may be established through evidence of activities associated with sustaining a living accommodation that are conducted in a public place, including:
(2) making a fire;
(3) storing personal belongings for an extended period;
(4) digging; or
(d) Consent given by an officer or agency of a political subdivision is not effective for purposes of Subsection (b), unless given to authorize the person to camp for:
(1) recreational purposes;
(2) purposes of sheltering homeless individuals, if the property on which the camping occurs is subject to a plan approved under Subchapter PP, Chapter 2306, Government Code, and the camping occurs in a manner that complies with the plan;
(3) purposes permitted by a beach access plan that has been approved under Section 61.015, Natural Resources Code, and the camping occurs in a manner that complies with the plan; or
(4) purposes related to providing emergency shelter during a disaster declared under Section 418.014, Government Code, or a local disaster declared under Section 418.108 of that code.
(e) An offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.
(f) This section does not preempt an ordinance, order, rule, or other regulation adopted by a state agency or political subdivision relating to prohibiting camping in a public place or affect the authority of a state agency or political subdivision to adopt or enforce an ordinance, order, rule, or other regulation relating to prohibiting camping in a public place if the ordinance, order, rule, or other regulation:
(1) is compatible with and equal to or more stringent than the offense prescribed by this section; or
(2) relates to an issue not specifically addressed by this section.
(g) Except as provided by Subsection (h), before or at the time a peace officer issues a citation to a person for an offense under this section, the peace officer must make a reasonable effort to:
(1) advise the person of an alternative place at which the person may lawfully camp; and
(2) contact, if reasonable and appropriate, an appropriate official of the political subdivision in which the public place is located, or an appropriate nonprofit organization operating within that political subdivision, and request the official or organization to provide the person with:
(A) information regarding the prevention of human trafficking; or
(B) any other services that would reduce the likelihood of the person suspected of committing the offense continuing to camp in the public place.
(h) Subsection (g) does not apply if the peace officer determines there is an imminent threat to the health or safety of any person to the extent that compliance with that subsection is impracticable.
(i) If the person is arrested or detained solely for an offense under this section, a peace officer enforcing this section shall ensure that all of the person’s personal property not designated as contraband under other law is preserved by:
(1) permitting the person to remove all the property from the public place at the time of the person’s departure; or
(2) taking custody of the property and allowing the person to retrieve the property after the person is released from custody.
(j) A fee may not be charged for the storage or release of property under Subsection (i)(2).
WHAT IS THE PENALTY CLASS FOR PROHIBITED CAMPING IN TEXAS?
Prohibited camping is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500.
WHAT IS THE PUNISHMENT RANGE FOR PROHIBITED CAMPING IN TEXAS?
The punishment range for prohibited camping, a Class C misdemeanor, is a maximum fine of $500 and no jail time.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR PROHIBITED CAMPING IN TEXAS?
A person charged with prohibited camping may be eligible for deferred adjudication for a period not to exceed 180 days. If a person is convicted of prohibited camping, the only available punishment is a fine, and no jail time or post-conviction probation community supervision.
WHAT ARE THE DEFENSES TO PROHIBITED CAMPING IN TEXAS?
The statute does not authorize specific defenses to prohibited camping, but does contain certain requirements for police officers enforcing the law.
Unless a peace officer perceives an imminent threat to any person’s health or safety, the officer must, prior to issuing a citation for prohibited camping, make a reasonable effort to:
- advise the person of an alternative place to lawfully camp; and
- contact an appropriate official who may provide the person with information regarding human trafficking prevention, or other services that would reduce the likelihood of the person continuing to camp in a public place.
- What happens to a person’s belongings after an arrest for public camping in Texas? If a police officer arrests and transports a person for prohibited camping, the law requires the officer to either permit the person to remove and take their property, or to store the person’s property so it may be recovered when the person is released.
- Can you camp on a beach in Texas? Yes, within certain limitations set out by applicable city ordinances. Most Texas beaches have designated camping areas, and regulate hours during which camping may occur in other areas of the beach. For example, Galveston County enacted a city ordinance, Section 8-6, prohibiting camping between 12:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. in any area not designated for overnight camping.
WHAT IS THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS FOR PROHIBITED CAMPING IN TEXAS?
The limitation period for prohibited camping, a Class C misdemeanor, is two years.
PROHIBITED CAMPING IN TEXAS
Prior to 2021, there was no statewide ban on camping in a public place, and the prohibitions were left to the authority of local governments. Texas law punishes camping in a public place as a Class C misdemeanor, and permits local governments to establish more stringent standards.