Individuals and groups reserve the unalienable rates to feel safe and secure on their own property. When someone disrespects private property and violates the law by unlawfully trespassing, New Jersey takes this violation seriously and may charge the alleged trespasser with a petty disorderly persons offense, a disorderly persons offense, or in the most serious situations, with a felony. If you have been charged with some form of trespassing in New Jersey, know that you face serious penalties. However, there are defenses for the charge that a skilled criminal defense attorney can help you argue. Contact our firm today for a free consultation to discuss your case, and read on to learn more about the trespassing charge under New Jersey criminal law.

What is the 2C Statute for Trespassing in NJ?

The statute that governs trespassing in New Jersey is Section 2C:18-3

Overview of Criminal Trespassing Under New Jersey Law

There are three main types of criminal trespassing according to New Jersey law. Defiant trespassing, unlicensed entry of a structure, and peering all carry different penalties.

Defiant trespassing is the entry of a property despite a warning against trespassing. A warning could come in the form of signage, fencing, closed hedges, or a verbal decree against trespassing. Defiant trespassing is a petty disorderly persons offense that comes with a penalty of up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Unlicensed entry of a structure encompasses entering certain properties without authorization. New Jersey law names private dwellings,  schools, waste treatment facilities, some other public utilities facilities, and research facilities as structures specifically pertaining to unlicensed entry trespassing law. When the unlicensed entrance or remaining in a structure pertains to one of the aforementioned places, then the offense is considered a fourth degree crime punishable by a maximum of 18 months in jail and fines of up to $10,000. Otherwise, this type of criminal trespass constitutes a disorderly persons offense, with penalties of up to six months in jail and $1000 in fines.

Peering is looking through a window or visual opening into the private property and space of someone who could reasonably expect to not be observed. Because peering is a marked violation of privacy and emotional safety, it carries the steepest penalties under New Jersey law. Trespassing by peering is a fourth degree crime whose punishment is up to 18 months in jail and fines of up to $10,000.

Navigating Trespassing Charges Through Three Sound Defenses

There are three primary defenses that can be argued for a trespassing charge. The first is that the property on which the accused is said to have trespassed is public property. If the person gained access legally, they cannot be charged with illegal trespassing. Secondly, if the accused reasonably thought the property was abandoned, they may have a defense. Evidence reflecting a state of disrepair akin to abandonment supports this defense. Finally, the accused can use the defense that they reasonably believed they were welcome on the property. Providing evidence of good standing with the property owner or a history of spending time on the property will support this defense.

Trespassing and Burglary in Legal Contrast

Trespassing and burglary seem similar, but their differences are substantial. Trespassing is entering another’s property without permission. Burglary is entering another’s property without permission and with the intent to commit another crime. As such, burglary charges are almost always more severe than trespassing charges.

NJ Expungement Process for Trespassing

New Jersey permits expungement of one indictable offense and up to three disorderly or petty disorderly persons offenses. Generally, one must wait five years after the penalty is served to request expungement.

Talk to an Experienced Criminal Attorney if You Have Been Charged with Trespassing in New Jersey

A trespassing charge can lead to serious consequences, but fortunately, there are options for a strong defense. In order to ensure that your defense is backed up by solid evidence and argument, it is important to enlist help from a criminal defense lawyer who is well-versed in the in’s and out’s of New Jersey criminal law. Our defense team of former prosecutors and experienced criminal defense attorneys can help you build the bulletproof defense you need to be acquitted or to employ our knowledge of working within the justice system to help you attain a reduced sentence.

Your future shouldn’t be at risk because of a trespassing charge. Our team of lawyers has ample experience representing clients in East Hanover, Chatham, Parsippany, Mount Olive, Florham Park, Chatham, Morristown, and other towns in the Morris County area in their trespassing cases. Contact us today at 973-524-7238 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your charge and learn how we can help you.