What Are the Penalties for Criminal Trespassing in New Jersey?

Although trespassing may seem like a relatively minor offense, it can result in penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment. As such, it’s in your best interest to enlist the help of a skilled Bergen County Criminal Defense Attorney who can help mount a strong defense, which can lead to reduced charges or even the dismissal of the charges against you. Please continue reading to learn the potential penalties for criminal trespassing in New Jersey. 

What is Criminal Trespassing?

Criminal trespassing is defined as the unlawful entry onto a property. Essentially, it’s a crime in which someone enters a space without consent. There are several different ways someone can commit criminal trespassing in New Jersey. It’s important to note that a person can be charged with criminal trespassing even if a property owner did not display a “no trespassing” sign. There are three different categories of criminal trespassing in New Jersey:

  • Unlicensed entry of structures: This occurs when a person enters a building without authorization. These spaces may or may not be marked as restricted areas. For instance, a person could face this offense if they trespass on another person’s home or a property belonging to a school.
  • Unlawful peering into dwellings: This is also referred to as “peeping.” Unlawful peering into dwelling places is a form of trespassing that involves an individual looking into a window or other opening. This violates the property owner’s reasonable expectation of privacy.
  • Defiant trespassing occurs when a person enters a property despite being warned verbally or by posted signs that they must stay off the premises.

What Penalties Will I Face for Criminal Trespassing in New Jersey?

Generally, a first-time offender with no prior convictions or arrests will likely not face jail time upon conviction. However, the penalties associated with a conviction for criminal trespassing will vary depending on the charge. Unlicensed entry is typically charged as a petty, disorderly person’s offense, which can carry up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Defiant trespassing is a petty, disorderly person’s offense that carries up to 30 days in jail and a fine of $1,000. Trespassing on school property, in a dwelling, research facility, power generation facility, or any similar facility is considered a fourth-degree crime. Peering into dwelling places is also considered a fourth-degree crime. A conviction can result in 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Moreover, individuals may be required to provide financial restitution to victims and a suspension of their driver’s license.

Do Any Defenses Exist?

Whether this is your first offense or not, it’s ill-advised to plead guilty and accept the potential consequences. A criminal record could limit your employment opportunities. Fortunately, there are defenses that an experienced Bergen County criminal defense attorney can use to help you avoid a conviction. Prosecutors are burdened with having to prove that you acted knowingly. As such, it may be possible to raise the defense that you were unaware at the time that you had no legal right to be on the property. You may be able to argue that the property was open to members of the public and complied with all the lawful conditions imposed on engaging access and that it remains in the structure. Furthermore, you could establish that the building you entered was abandoned at the time.

If you or a loved one is facing criminal trespassing charges, please don’t hesitate to contact a competent attorney from The Law Office of Carl Spector, who can help you explore available defenses to avoid a conviction and protect your future.