Purple Paint, Not Just Backwoods Graffiti


Have you ever been traveling down a country road and see trees and/or fence posts with purple paint sprayed on them?  Is this paint some sort of backwoods graffiti or even a sign of the landowners favorite sports team?  Well not exactly, this paint marks property boundaries and tells the public “No trespassing.”

While some landowners still use the traditional "No Trespassing" signs, the Purple Paint Statute allows landowners to mark trees or posts with purple paint as a warning to would-be trespassers. Just like the "No Trespassing" sign or actual communication to individuals that no trespassing is allowed, the purple paint marks are considered to be adequate notice to the public that no trespassing is allowed on the property.

The purple paint law began in Arkansas in 1989 and Missouri enacted the same law during its legislative session in 1993. These statutes were enacted to provide landowners with an economical and easy way to keep out unwanted trespassers. The law does not require that property marked with the purple paint also be fenced, thus making it an economical alternative for landowners who do not otherwise need to fence their property. Additionally, it prevents problems encountered when using "No Trespassing" signs as purple paint marks can't be taken down, destroyed, or even stolen.  

Under the Missouri Law, the paint marks must be at least 8 inches long, the bottom edge must be three to five feet off the ground and cannot be more than one hundred feet apart.  Following these restrictions set forth by the statute should make the paint marks readily visible to any person approaching the property.

The statute states that any person trespassing onto a property marked by purple paint can be found guilty of first-degree trespassing. Any unauthorized entry onto property marked with the purple paint marks is considered a trespass. First-degree trespassing is a Class B Misdemeanor, with potential punishment of a maximum $500 fine and/or a maximum of 6 months in jail.

Other violations which would subject a trespasser to first-degree trespass are: (1) entering a property posted with “No Trespassing” signs; (2) refusing to leave a property once to do so; and (3) coming onto land fenced against intruders.

Landowners can purchase purple boundary posting paint at most hardware stores across the state for little cost.  So while summer is in full swing, fall is knocking on the back door waiting to start as is the most important time of year, deer hunting season.  Get your “No Trespassing” indicators posted well in advance to give would-be trespassers a heads up.

While this information is for you to consider, do not rely on the information for legal advice.  It is best to see an attorney for legal counseling tailored to your specific situation. For more information on purple paint laws and trespass laws, visit extension.missouri.edu or contact your local MU Extension Center.

Source: Nathanial Cahill, Agricultural Business Specialist