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. 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. 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.
Trespassing Charges Explained
Clients who have been charged with trespass in New Jersey under NJSA 2C:18-3 may be facing either a disorderly persons offense, a petty disorderly persons offense, or a crime of the fourth degree.
Defendants commit a disorderly persons offense when they enter any “structure” – as opposed to a dwelling – with the knowledge that they are not allowed to do so. If that “structure” is a dwelling (residence), it then becomes a crime of the fourth degree. If a defendant enters an area knowing that he or she is not allowed to do so and has been given notice that they may not trespass in the area, then that person is committing a petty disorderly persons offense. This is what is known as a defiant trespass.
There are a number of ways to defend against trespass charges. Primarily one would make the argument that a defendant had no knowledge that the area wherein they were trespassing was not open to members of the public. Secondarily, an argument that we may make in defense of a trespass charge would be that the alleged trespasser “reasonably believed” that they had license to enter or remain on the property.
A person convicted of a petty disorderly persons defense is subject to a fine of up to $500 in addition to other court fees. One who is convicted of a disorderly persons offense faces fines up to $1,000 and a sentence of up to 6 months in county jail. County jail time for a petty disorderly persons offense can be no longer than 30 days. A conviction as a fourth degree trespass would carry higher fines and a potential jail sentence of up to 18 months. Having an attorney assist you with matters that seem even as simple as a trespass can greatly affect your future, your earning potential, and the quality of your life moving forward.