Defending NJ 2C:18-3. Trespassing.
After you read the following NJ Criminal Statute (Trespassing) you may decide that you need the help of a lawyer, or need a legal interpretation of how this statute applies to your case. The firm of Villani & DeLuca has experienced criminal lawyers with over 20 years of experience, including a former municipal prosecutor. Call the number above for a free 24×7 phone consultation or read more about the trespassing charge.
Summary of the Criminal Trespass Charge in New Jersey
A person is charged with criminal trespass when that person enters or secretly remains on someone else’s property as a result of the defendant’s purposeful or knowing behavior. The degree of that charge will depend on circumstances of the case, such as the type of property that the defendant entered.
The Elements for a Criminal Trespass Conviction
In order to land a conviction for criminal trespass in New Jersey, the prosecutor must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant entered or surreptitiously remained in a structure and did so knowing he had no right to enter or remain there at the time.
A “structure” is any building, room, ship, vessel, car or airplane, as well as any place adapted for overnight accommodation. Clearly, a structure includes many types of enclosed spaces. Finally, to “surreptitiously remain” in a structure without right to do so means that the defendant stayed in the enclosed space in a secret or stealthy manner for some duration of time.
To land a conviction for the related charge of peering in New Jersey, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant looked inside any opening of a dwelling or structure adapted for overnight accommodation, knowing he had no right to do so, and did so for the purpose of invading the privacy of a person inside a dwelling where that person would not expect to be observed.
The Related Charge of Peering in NJ
Here, the State does not need to prove that the defendant actually entered the dwelling or structure, which is the case with criminal trespass – instead, the State must only prove that he peered into the dwelling. A defendant that does this is guilty of peering when he looks into the dwelling knowing that he has no right to do so, or that there is a high probability that he had no privilege or right to do so. Finally, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant peered into the dwelling with the purpose to engage in conduct that invaded the privacy of another.
Possible Defenses to Criminal Trespass
To defeat a conviction for criminal trespass, one of several defenses may be argued. It could be shown that the defendant entered a structure that was abandoned at the time of entry. Also, the defense may assert that the structure was open to the public, and that the defendant remained there lawfully. Finally, the defense may be able to assert that the defendant reasonably believed that the owner or a person with the power to grant access would have allowed the defendant to enter.
Defendants should be wary regarding any permission or license to enter or remain on the property of another, however, because permission can be revoked. Additionally, even with permission, that permission can be limited in scope and must not be exceeded by the defendant.
Penalties if Found Guilty of Trespassing
If the defendant is found guilty of criminal trespass, and the State has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the offense occurred in a school or on school property or in a dwelling, then it is a fourth degree offense. It is also a fourth degree offense if the State proves that the trespass occurred in a research facility of any kind, as well as a public sewage or water treatment facility. This is punishable by up to 18 months jail time and a possible $10,000 fine. If the trespass occurs on any other property, then the trespass is only a disorderly persons offense, and is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a possible $1,000 fine.
Additionally, if a person trespasses knowing that he has no permission to do so and has been given actual notice, a sign has been posted that would provide notice, or a fence or enclosure has been erected to keep out intruders, he has committed a petty disorderly persons offense. This is punishable by a fine of up to $500. If a defendant is found guilty of peering, this is a fourth degree criminal offense. This can result in up to eighteen months of jail time and up to a $10,000 fine.
NJ Statute: 2C:18-3. Unlicensed entry of structures; defiant trespasser; peering into dwelling places; defenses.
a. Unlicensed entry of structures. A person commits an offense if, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, he enters or surreptitiously remains in any research facility, structure, or separately secured or occupied portion thereof, or in or upon utility company property. An offense under this subsection is a crime of the fourth degree if it is committed in a school or on school property. The offense is a crime of the fourth degree if it is committed in a dwelling. An offense under this section is a crime of the fourth degree if it is committed in a research facility, power generation facility, waste treatment facility, public sewage facility, water treatment facility, public water facility, nuclear electric generating plant or any facility which stores, generates or handles any hazardous chemical or chemical compounds. An offense under this subsection is a crime of the fourth degree if it is committed in or upon utility company property. Otherwise it is a disorderly persons offense.
b.Defiant trespasser. A person commits a petty disorderly persons offense if, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, he enters or remains in any place as to which notice against trespass is given by:
(1)Actual communication to the actor; or
(2)Posting in a manner prescribed by law or reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders; or
(3)Fencing or other enclosure manifestly designed to exclude intruders.
c.Peering into windows or other openings of dwelling places. A person commits a crime of the fourth degree if, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, he peers 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.
d.Defenses. It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that:
(1)A structure involved in an offense under subsection a. was abandoned;
(2)The structure was at the time open to members of the public and the actor complied with all lawful conditions imposed on access to or remaining in the structure; or
(3)The actor reasonably believed that the owner of the structure, or other person empowered to license access thereto, would have licensed him to enter or remain, or, in the case of subsection c. of this section, to peer.
amended 1980, c.112, s.3; 1994, c.90; 1995, c.20, s.4; 1997, c.15; 2005, c.100; 2009, c.283, s.3.
AKA: NJ Criminal Charge 2C:18-3, Violation 2C:18-3, Offense 2C:18-3
Disclaimer: A copy of this statute has been provided for your information. This wording was current from the NJ website lis.njleg.state.nj.us as of August 2012.