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COULD THE PARENT BE CHARGED WITH CRIMINAL TRESPASS FOR ENTERING SCHOOL PROPERTY?

Case citation:  Parrish v. State, 2014 WL 709562 (Tex. App. – Eastland 2014) (unpublished).

Summary:  Ronnie Earl Parrish was the father of a former student in the Midland Independent School District.   During the 2010-11 school year, several incidents occurred at the school, causing school officials to issue Parrish a trespass warning.  It was alleged that on January 21, 2011, Parrish became argumentative with the school’s assistant principal. The argument arose when he refused to abide by the school’s policy that required all visitors to wear a school-issued badge while inside the school building. The principal called the district police department and after meeting with the chief of police, Parrish made assurances that he would not come into the school building unless he first called and set up an appointment with the school’s assistant principal.

On February 7, 2011, however, the principal again called the district police department because Parrish had not made an appointment with the school’s assistant principal before he entered the school building.  A police lieutenant issued the trespass warning to Parrish on January 26, 2011, at the instruction of the district superintendent. The citation stated that Parrish “must make arrangements prior to visiting any location” of district property. Parrish accepted and signed the warning.  The lieutenant also issued Parrish a Class C citation for trespass under § 37.107 of the Texas Education Code.  The citation stated that Parrish was “supposed to call and make appointment before entering” the school.  Parrish refused to sign the citation.

Parrish was seen in the principal’s office on March 7, 2011, without having made an appointment, as required by the trespass warning.   Then, on March 9, 2011, the lieutenant again encountered Parrish at the school.  Parrish ignored attempts by the lieutenant and other officers to speak to him and continued to walk his child to the front door of the school. A school employee was called to escort the child to class, while officers continued to try to talk to Parrish.   However, Parrish got in his vehicle and locked the doors.  After a few minutes, Parrish drove away.   The officers followed Parrish a few blocks and when Parrish stopped, the officers arrested him for criminal trespass and evading detention.

Parrish was later charged by information with the Class B misdemeanor offense of criminal trespass of a building located at 3201 Heritage Boulevard in Midland, Texas. The information alleged that the offense occurred on or about March 8, 2011. A jury convicted Parrish and the court assessed punishment of ninety days in jail, probated for a term of one year, and a fine of $200.   Parrish appealed his conviction, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence.

Ruling: The appeals court affirmed the parent’s conviction for criminal trespass.  Parrish argued that (1) the State failed to present evidence that identified him as the person who committed the offense of criminal trespass, (2) the evidence was insufficient to establish that the offense occurred at the specific address alleged in the information, and (3) the evidence was insufficient to establish that he entered any building on the date alleged in the information.

According to the appeals court, even though the State did not offer an in-court identification of Parrish during trial, the totality of evidence indicated that the witnesses knew Parrish and that he was the person who committed criminal trespass.   The jury, therefore, was adequately apprised that the witnesses were referring to Parrish.  The address of the school property was also established, because it was included in the trespass warning and identified by the school assistant principal. Finally, although there was a discrepancy in the date of the occurrence on the indictment papers and the testimony at trial, the appeals court determined that that discrepancy did not warrant reversal of Parrish’s conviction.  According to the appeals court, the purpose of specifying a date in a charge is to demonstrate that the conviction was within the statute of limitations.  Here, whether it occurred on March 8, 2011 or March 9, 2011, the incident fell within the two-year statute of limitations that applies to a charge of criminal trespass. Finding no error, the appeals court affirmed Parrish’s conviction for entering school property in violation of the trespass warning.