Trespass Offense

New Jersey Trespassing Defense Attorneys

Trespassing may seem like a simple offense that you can handle on your own by paying a fine or doing some community service. But a New Jersey trespassing charge, known as “unlicensed entry of structures” or “defiant trespasser,” can in many cases be punished with a jail term and a fine of up to $10,000.

It is a mistake to take trespass charges in New Jersey lightly. Anyone charged, adult or juvenile, needs the assistance of a defense attorney experienced in New Jersey municipal courts to help get a trespassing charge dismissed or otherwise resolved on favorable terms. A trespassing conviction on your record will be immediately costly and could damage future opportunities for employment, higher education, public assistance and more.

Prior to becoming defense attorneys, the lawyers of the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall spent decades as prosecutors and public defenders in municipal and county courtrooms across New Jersey. We understand the law and how trespass charges can be fought so they are eventually dismissed and your record remains clean of criminal convictions.

Our attorneys, who work out of nine offices across the state, also have the relationships with local prosecutors needed to make negotiations for downgraded or dismissed charges work out.

Call or fill out our online form now to set up a free legal consultation with an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney from the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall. Get answers to your questions and guidance for how to protect yourself from potentially severe consequences of a misstep that led to trespassing charges.

How You Can Be Jailed for Trespassing in New Jersey

Under New Jersey law, there are two crimes commonly referred to as trespassing:

  • Defiant trespasser – This is entering or hiding to remain in any place a person does not have authority to be, and doing so despite “notice against trespass,” which may be a posted sign, personal communication, or a fence or other enclosure obviously in place to exclude intruders. This is a petty disorderly persons offense, which is punishable by a fine of up to $500.
  • Unlicensed entry of structures – This is a fourth-degree indictable offense, which is punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Unlicensed entry of structures is entering or hiding to remain in any building without authority to do so if such property is a:
    • Dwelling (house, apartment, condo, for example)
    • School or on school property
    • Research facility structure, or separately secured or occupied portion thereof
    • Utility company property
    • Power generation facility
    • Waste treatment facility
    • Public sewage facility
    • Water treatment facility
    • Public water facility
    • Nuclear electric generating plant
    • Any facility that stores, generates or handles any hazardous chemical or chemical compounds

New Jersey’s related “Peeping Tom” offense — peering into windows or other openings of dwelling places — is also a fourth-degree offense, for which a person may be jailed and heavily fined. The crime is peering (looking) “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.”

Without proper legal representation, you could easily be jailed and fined for the most harmless trespassing offense, or even for a total misunderstanding or something you never did. Prosecutors have a duty to seek convictions. They are not there to tell defendants how to avoid guilty verdicts.

To take advantage of what is allowed under New Jersey law and keep a conviction off your record, it is crucial to engage a defense attorney experienced in New Jersey municipal courts. The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can set up a free initial consultation today at any of our nine New Jersey locations about the legal options available to you when facing trespassing and/or related charges.

How We Can Help You Out of Trespass Charges

Before becoming defense attorneys for the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, our lawyers were prosecutors and public defenders in local New Jersey courts. We have been on both sides of the table for a wide range of property crime cases, including many trespassing cases. We know what the law says and what really happens in court.

We also know and abide by the fact that, regardless of the crime a person has been charged with, without a guilty plea, the prosecutor must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt to obtain a conviction. We will make sure the prosecution’s case against you stands up or that it does not move forward.

A trespassing or peeping case will first be heard in municipal court. If the charge is unlicensed entry of structures or peering into dwellings, both indictable offenses, the case may be sent to the county’s superior court.

We will reach out to prosecutors to work to keep your case in municipal court as a disorderly persons charge, which means a much lighter penalty if convicted.

In most trespassing cases, the defendant is caught in the act. In other cases, increasingly, a defendant is identified through security camera imagery. However, New Jersey’s trespassing laws present three defenses to the charges described, meaning a defendant should be exonerated if:

  • The structure, dwelling, etc., entered was abandoned.
  • The structure was open to the public at the time it was entered, or the defendant otherwise lawfully entered or remained in the structure.
  • The defendant “reasonably believed” he or she would have had the owner’s or operator’s permission to enter or peer into the structure.

Other potential defenses include:

  • An alibi, for example, you can establish that you were somewhere else when the trespassing or peeping allegedly occurred
  • Mistaken identity, including questioning the interpretation of poor-quality security camera images
  • Unreliable witness testimony
  • Coercion, entrapment, or some inducement by another for you to commit the alleged crime
  • Mental impairment (such as intoxication or illness) at the time of the alleged crime that prevented understanding of right vs. wrong or the consequences of your actions

Every day in New Jersey courts, experienced defense attorneys like ours find opportunities to have trespassing charges reduced or dismissed.

If we cannot get your case dismissed, one goal would be to obtain a Conditional Discharge of the case. This is probation, after which the case can be dismissed if you are not charged with another offense, which keeps your record clean of criminal convictions.

Depending on the circumstances of your case, we may be able to negotiate a plea for entry into Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI), New Jersey’s primary diversion program for nonviolent first-offenders. This is more intense court-supervised probation for an average of 1 to 3 years. It may include psychological and/or drug and alcohol evaluation, rehabilitation, and random urine tests. After successfully completing all conditions of PTI, the defendant’s original charges are dismissed, leaving their record clean.

The Veterans’ Diversion program in New Jersey assists active military members and retirees accused of nonviolent crimes who have been diagnosed with mental illness or who have demonstrated symptoms of mental illness in the presence of law enforcement personnel, family members or friends. A service member or retiree charged with trespassing may be able to avoid trial and a criminal record, and receive other help through this program.

If you are facing a trespassing charge anywhere in New Jersey, call the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall for a free assessment of your case. We can explore multiple possibilities for keeping a criminal conviction off of your record.

Contact Our N.J. Trespassing Defense Lawyers Today

If you face charges of trespassing or peeping in New Jersey, don’t risk potentially severe punishment and a permanent record for a lapse of judgment or a misunderstanding. Contact the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall at any of our nine N.J. offices now for a free legal consultation. Our team will move promptly to prepare a defense that results in the most favorable resolution to your case available. Call or fill out our online contact form today.