Is it Illegal to Trespass on Dunes at the Jersey Shore?

New Jersey beaches see hundreds of thousands of visitors every summer. One of the most iconic elements of going to the beach at the Jersey Shore is climbing over the dunes, cresting the hill, and seeing the ocean sparkle ahead of you. Especially since Hurricane Sandy and other storms that ravaged the Jersey Shore, preserving dunes is more important than ever. Many of the towns and cities along the shore have specific laws against trespassing in the dunes or damaging the plants that grow there.

If you or a loved one was charged with trespassing in dunes or destroying the dunes, talk to an attorney. The Atlantic City trespassing defense attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych fight to get charges dropped and dismissed throughout South Jersey and the Jersey Shore. If you are from New Jersey or from out of state, hire a New Jersey defense attorney for your trespassing charges.

Local Charges for Damaging Dunes

Dunes help contain the coastline and stop the ocean from climbing further onto shore. When the dunes become worn down, they can’t keep the ocean from flooding houses, buildings, and streets along the shore. With the heavy storms we’ve seen over the past few years and the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the Jersey Shore is constantly fighting to rebuild and maintain strong dunes. Because of this, there are many laws in place to protect dunes. Violating these rules can lead to fines and the possibility of jail time.

As an example, Stone Harbor, New Jersey has a comprehensive law against trespassing on the dunes. They also have very harsh penalties for violating these rules. Even though the laws against trespassing on the dunes are local ordinances, they are punishable by a fine of up to $1,250, up to 90 days in the Cape May County Jail, 90 days community service, or any combination of two of these penalties.

Stone Harbor’s local laws also make it illegal to do any of the following to a dune or in a dune area:

  • Build a structure;
  • Remove sand or plants;
  • Move fencing or hang things from fencing;
  • Cut, burn, or destroy plants;
  • Trespass on dunes on foot or in a vehicle;
  • Cross the dunes anywhere except the designated footpaths;
  • Drive vehicles onto the beach; or
  • Take beach or dune sand without permission.

New Jersey Trespassing Lawyer

Many of these regulations are focused more on building and other codes. For instance, the rules against building on the dunes are targeted at property owners and builders, and are meant to require a permit. However, other rules against moving fences or trespassing in the dune area are aimed at stopping individuals and other beachgoers. Violating these kinds of rules can lead to charges in municipal court in New Jersey.

Jersey Shore Trespassing on Dunes

Climbing onto dunes could also constitute the crime of trespassing. Trespassing is a crime throughout New Jersey, not just something handled on a local level. This crime, if committed on a dune or some other secured public property, would usually be a disorderly persons offense. This is the lowest level of crime in New Jersey, and is punished by up to 6 months in jail and fines up to $1,000.

N.J.S.A. § 2C:18-3 criminalizes a few types of trespass. First, the simple definition of trespass under subsection (a) makes it a crime to enter or remain in a structure. Since dunes are outside, this would not normally apply. This version of trespassing is a disorderly persons offense, or worse if it is committed in a school, utilities facility, research facility, power plant, or airport.

South Jersey Trespassing Attorney

The version of trespass under subsection (b) is called “defiant trespasser.” This is usually a disorderly persons offense, and makes it illegal to enter or remain in any place (indoors or outdoors) where there is notice against trespass. The “notice against trespass” can come from a few sources:

  • Actual communication – e.g. a lifeguard or police officer tells you to stay off the dunes.
  • Posting – e.g. police or the local government posted signs saying, “Keep off the dunes.”
  • Fencing or other enclosures. Fences and guardrails are sufficient notice to tell someone they are not allowed to enter the fenced-off area.

Many houses and other property sits right along the dunes, and many points of beach access may be private property. If there are signs posted that warn people against trespassing, entering those areas may also be trespassing. Always keep an eye out for the lines between public and private beach property.

Atlantic City Trespass Attorney

The Atlantic City criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych represent those charged with crimes at the Jersey Shore and throughout South Jersey. If you or a loved one was charged with a crime, you will have to face those charges in New Jersey. For a free consultation on your case, call our attorneys today at (609) 616-4956.

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