New Jersey state law sets forth harsh penalties for those individuals who violate the NJ criminal code. Trespassing offenses in New Jersey are usually charged under N.J.S.A. 2C:18-3 unless the conduct rose to the level of burglary. In a sense, criminal trespass and defiant trespass does indeed have similarities to the crime of burglary because both offenses require an individual to make an unlawful entry onto a property or parcel or individuals who refuse to vacate a property. The main difference between criminal trespass and burglary is the state of mind of the accused individual. If he or she entered the property with the intent to commit a crime, burglary has occurred. If he or she did not enter or remain on the property for criminal purposes, then it is more likely that criminal trespass will be charged.
However, because the difference between these laws is based on an individual’s internal state of mind, sometimes charges for the more serious burglary can be advanced. In other situations, the accused may indeed be on property that is not his or her own, but the accused may have a legally valid justification for his or her criminal trespass. An experienced criminal defense attorney, like the attorneys of the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, fight to make the prosecution prove each and every element of the charged offense. Furthermore, we strategically raise all possible affirmative defenses to meet the charge. To schedule a free and confidential initial consultation regarding an alleged violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:18-3, New Jersey’s criminal trespass law, call our firm at (609) 616-4956 or contact us online today.
What is Considered Criminal Trespass under NJ law?
If you are charged with criminal trespass in New Jersey under N.J.S.A. 2C:18-3, you could face a petty disorderly persons offense, a disorderly persons offense, or a fourth-degree indictable crime. In Atlantic City and throughout New Jersey a disorderly persons offense is roughly equivalent to a misdemeanor while an indictable offense is similar to a felony. The degree of crime that can be charges is dependent on the conduct in question.
In the scenario where a person enters into any “structure”, when the structure is not a home or a dwelling, and he or she knows that he or she holds no right to do so, has most likely committed the disorderly persons level of the violation. Furthermore, if a person comes onto a property without permission despite notice against trespass being posted, he or she has committed defiant trespass. Defiant trespass is typically charges as a petty disorderly persons offense. Written notice, a fence, or spoken instructions by the property owner can all constitute notice for a defiant trespass charge.
As previously stated, if the person comes onto a property or remains on a property where he or she is not permitted to be, the offense is typically at the disorderly persons level. However, if the criminal trespass occurs at a “research facility”, in a school, on school property, or in a dwelling a fourth degree crime can be charged. A fourth degree crime can result in a prison sentence of up to 18 months and a fine of up to $10,000. A number of other conditions on your freedom and other penalties can, including the loss of the presumption against incarceration in future matters can occur.
Are there Potential Defenses to a New Jersey Trespassing Charge?
There are a number of affirmative defenses that an individual accused of criminal trespass may raise to excuse, justify, or mitigate the conduct. The accused may choose to argue that the structure where the alleged criminal trespass occurred was abandoned per the definition of the statute. An “abandoned” structure is a structure where the rightful owner has “vacated it with no intention of returning or reclaiming it.” If successfully raised, the state must prove that the structure was not abandoned. The defendant may also choose to raise the affirmative defense that the structure or research facility was open to the public and he or she did not violate any of the conditions imposed for access. Finally, the defendant may raise his or her legitimate good-faith belief that the owner of the property or the owner’s agent did or would have permitted access or presence on the property. If successfully raised the state must prove beyond a shadow of a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not reasonably believe that the owner would have permitted his or her presence.
Rely on Our Criminal Trespass Defense Experience in Atlantic City, Wildwood, Cape May and South Jersey
If you have been charged with defiant trespass or criminal trespass in Atlantic City, Wildwood, Cape May, Northfield or elsewhere in Atlantic or Cape May Counties the experienced criminal defense lawyers of the Law Firm of John J. Zarych can fight for you. We are committed to protecting our clients from the consequences of criminal charges in New Jersey. To schedule a free and confidential initial criminal trespass defense consultation call (609) 616-4956 or contact us online.