New Jersey Trespassing Defense Attorney
Have you been charged with Unlicensed Entry of Structures, Defiant Trespassing, or Peering? Were you caught in a place you weren’t supposed to be? Or maybe you thought you had permission to be there until you were suddenly arrested? There are many situations that can result in charges of Unlicensed Entry of Structures, Defiant Trespassing, or Peering. These are all different kinds of Trespass related offenses which people generally refer to as Trespassing. Misunderstandings, long nights out with your friends, or overwrought curiosity can easily lead to charges involving Trespassing. You may not have even known that you were breaking the law or how you ended up with a charge, but one thing is certain. If you’ve been charged with a Trespass related offense, you need an attorney.
Our firm defends individuals accused of offenses in counties throughout the State of New Jersey such as Union County, Middlesex County, Somerset County, Hudson County, Essex County, Morris County, Ocean County and Monmouth County, and including the towns of Elizabeth, Linden, Clark, Rahway, Roselle, Garwood, Woodbridge, Kenilworth and Springfield.
My name is Anthony N. Palumbo, Union County Trespassing Attorney and criminal defense lawyer. I am an aggressive Trespassing attorney with over 35 years of criminal trial experience, and as a former prosecutor, I can provide you with the best defense possible given the circumstances of your case. Trespassing is a serious offense, and if convicted could result in time in prison, fines, and a damaging record. Contact me today for a free initial consultation, and let’s see what I can do for you. While this webpage is in no way a replacement to the valuable role an attorney can play in your case, it should help you understand the charge of Trespassing by explaining the laws, penalties if convicted, and possible defenses for your case.
Explaining the Laws of Trespassing
In New Jersey, there are three different charges that Trespass related offenses may result in: (1) Unlicensed Entry of Structures; (2) Defiant Trespasser; and (3) Peering. Let’s examine some of the differences between the three laws.
Unlicensed Entry of Structures
You will be charged with committing Unlicensed Entry of Structures if you:
- Enter a structure, or some part of a structure; and
- You know that you are not licensed or privileged to be there.
You will be charged with committing Defiant Trespassing if:
- You enter a place that you are not licensed or privileged to be; and
- You know that you are not allowed to be there either because:
- The owner communicated this to you; or
- There is a sign that says no one is allowed in; or
- There is a fence designed to keep people out.
The difference between Defiant Trespassing and Unlicensed Entry of Structures is the Notice Requirement.
You will be charged with committing Peering if you peer (stare) into a window, opening of a dwelling, or other structure adapted as a home to sleep in overnight:
- For the purpose of invading privacy of another person; and
- Knowing you are not licensed or privileged to be there; and
- Under circumstances in which a reasonable person in the dwelling would not expect to be watched.
Understanding the Legal Language
Before, going through the penalties of each offense, let’s discuss some of the language used in the laws above.
- Structure: Generally structure means an enclosure that marks a boundary, and prevents intrusion or escape. A common example would be a building. However, the word structure is used instead of building because it is broader and it encompasses other enclosures that may not technically be considered buildings, but still constitute an enclosed area that belongs to someone else.
- Dwelling: A dwelling is a house, but it can also be any other structure that has been adapted for someone to sleep in overnight. For example if you sleep in your shed, and you have put a bed in it, and adapted it so that you can sleep in every night, that would be a dwelling even though a shed is not usually a place where someone would sleep. Notice how Peering requires the offense to take place in a dwelling. If you are charged with Peering, an attorney may be able to defend your case by arguing that the charge is improper because the enclosure you peered into was not a dwelling. This is an example of how an attorney can defend your case.
- Reasonable Person: The words ‘reasonable person’ are used in the offense of Peering to describe when someone would not expect to be watched. It means that a person’s expectation that they are not being watched must be reasonable or logical. For example, if someone is taking a bath with the door closed and the window shades down, it would be reasonable for them to expect that they are not being watched. However, if someone is dancing naked in their living room in front of a large window during the day, it may not be reasonable to expect that no one is watching. In that instance, a victim may not be able to argue that she reasonably did not expect to be watched because that is an unreasonable expectation regardless of how she personally felt.
Penalties if Convicted
Now let’s take a look at some of the penalties you may face if convicted of a Trespass related offense. Each Trespass related offense is unique and carries different penalties. Additionally, penalties for Trespass related offenses may be increased depending on the circumstances surrounding how they are committed.
Entry of Unlicensed Structure
Entry of Unlicensed Structure is generally a disorderly persons offense which carries penalties of:
- Up to 6 months in prison; and
- $1,000 in fines
However, if the offense is committed in a school or on school property, power generation facility, waste treatment facility, public sewage facility, water treatment facility, public water facility, nuclear electric generating plant or any facility which stores, generates or handles any hazardous chemical or chemical compounds, or a dwelling or other research facility, then it is a 4th degree crime which carries penalties of:
- Up to 18 months in prison; and
- $10,000 in fines
Defiant Trespassing is a disorderly persons offense which carries penalties of:
- Up to 6 months in Prison; and
- $1,000 in fines
Peering is a 4th degree crime which carries penalties of:
- Up to 18 months in Prison
- $10,000 in fines
Defenses for Trespassing
There are certain defenses against Trespass related offenses that if proved will result in the charges being dropped. These are called affirmative defenses. The following are affirmative defenses that may be used in Trespass related offenses:
- The structure involved was abandoned.
- At the time you entered, the structure was open to the public, and you complied with all lawful conditions imposed on access to or remaining in the structure;
- You reasonably believed that the owner of the structure, or someone else who had the power to grant access, would have allowed you to enter or peer (stare) inside.
If your lawyer can prove any of these defenses, the charges against you will be dropped. An experienced attorney will be familiar with these defenses, and will know how to prove them. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to have an experienced attorney on your side. With over 35 years of criminal trial experience, and as a former Union County prosecutor, I know which defenses will work against the prosecution. Contact me today and I will be happy to discuss your case, and any possible defenses that may work for you. While each case is different, I will do my best to ensure the best possible outcome given the circumstances of your case. Contact me today for a free initial consultation and let’s see what I can do for you.