Most people think trespassing is a relevantly minor offense but New Jersey actually takes these charges very seriously since it involves an invasion of the victim’s privacy. A criminal charge of trespass can differ in severity – between either a disorderly persons offense or indictable felony – depending on the exact circumstances of the allegations. An experienced criminal lawyer can challenge the state’s case against you to use it as leverage when negotiating with prosecutor for a downgrade, dismissal, or to secure your admittance into Pre-Trial Intervention. Proetta & Oliver has successfully handled thousands of criminal and municipal court charges over the years including numerous trespassing cases. Our law firms defends clients for trespass charges throughout Hudson County and surrounding areas including Harrison, Jersey City, Union City, Bayonne, Secaucus, Weehawken, and North Bergen. As always, if the matter cannot be worked out we are ready and able to present an aggressive defense at trial. If you would like to learn more information regarding New Jersey Trespass law then contact our office in Jersey City for a free initial consultation at (201) 793-8018.
NJ Trespassing Statute 2C:18-3
The definition for trespassing in New Jersey is so broad that the legislature has differentiated the acts as two different types of trespassing which are Defiant Trespass and Criminal Trespass. The New Jersey trespass statute 2C:18-3 is provided, in pertinent part, below:
a. Unlicensed entry of structures. A person commits an offense if, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, he enters or surreptitiously remains in any research facility, structure, or separately secured or occupied portion thereof. An offense under this subsection is a crime of the fourth degree if it is committed in a school or school property…dwelling…[or] research facility. Otherwise it is a disorderly persons offense.
b. Defiant trespasser. A person commits a petty disorderly persons offense if, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, he enters or remains in any place as to which notice against trespass is given by:
(1) Actual communication to the actor; or
(2) Posting in a manner prescribed by law or reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders; or
(3) Fencing or other enclosure manifestly designed to exclude intruders.
c. Peering into windows or other openings of dwelling places. A person commits a crime of the fourth degree if, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, he peers into a window or other opening of a dwelling or other structure adapted for overnight accommodation for the purpose of invading the privacy of another person and under circumstances in which a reasonable person in the dwelling or other structure would not expect to be observed.
Penalties for Trespassing in New Jersey
In New Jersey, a trespassing offense can be charged as a petty disorderly persons offense, disorderly persons offense, or a fourth degree indictable offense. Trespassing is a petty disorderly persons offense, referred to as defiant trespass, if you enter a place that has given notice against trespass, knowing that you do not have license to be there. If convicted, you may face up to 30 days in jail and be ordered to pay a $500 fine. You can be charged with a disorderly persons offense, which imposes more significant penalties, if you enter or surreptitiously stay in a structure, knowing that you are not licensed or privileged to do so. This offense is known as unlicensed entry of structures. If you are found guilty, you may face up to 6 months of imprisonment and up to $1,000 in fines.
Trespass can be charged as a fourth degree offense if you enter or surreptitiously stay on school property or in a utility company, nuclear plant, chemical plant, or research facility, knowing that you do not have license to be there. You can also commit fourth degree trespass if you peer into the window or some other opening of a dwelling or structure adapted for overnight accommodation for the purpose of invading someone else’s privacy. If convicted, penalties may include up to 18 months in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
The chart below is a useful reference if you are wondering about the potential sentence you face for a trespassing charge in New Jersey.
Crime Degree Punishment
Petty Disorderly Persons Offense
30 days in county jail
Disorderly Persons Offense
6 months in county jail
4th Degree Crime
18 months in state prison
I was Charged with Trespassing, Where will my Case be Heard?
Disorderly person offenses, including defiant trespass and unlicensed entry of structures charges, are heard in the municipal court of the town or city where you are charged with the offense. In municipal court in New Jersey, you do not have a right to be indicted by a grand jury or have a jury trial. Rather than a jury deciding your fate, your case will be heard and decided by solely by the presiding municipal court judge. On the other hand, fourth degree trespass cases are heard in the superior court of the county where you were arrested, since these are indictable (felony) charges. A conviction in superior court carries the potential for state prison time.
Defiant Trespass Lawyer in Hoboken NJ
Generally speaking, most trespass charges that we handle are petty disorderly persons offenses or disorderly persons offenses because these typically involve a neighbor using property without permission or an individual coming on to property after already being told to leave. Fourth degree trespassing charges are more serious because they normally involve going in to building or school without permission and for that reason these cases are typically linked to Criminal Mischief or Burglary charges as well. As mentioned above, fourth degree trespass can also involve “peering” or “peeping” which is commonly associated with Stalking or Harassment. However, no matter the facts of your particular case, one thing is for sure – a trespassing charge is serious and a conviction will result in a permanent criminal record with the possibility of community service, restitution, probation, and incarceration. Contact our office today at (201) 793-8018 to speak with an experienced trespass lawyer about your charges during a free initial consultation or to schedule an appointment at our Jersey City office.
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