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How to Beat a Trespassing Charge in New York?

Trespassing is a criminal offense in New York involving an individual entering or remaining on a property without the owner’s consent. The act of trespassing can result in various legal consequences, depending on the specific details of the incident. Trespass offenses in New York can result in charges that can range from a violation to a felony.

Regardless of the charges brought against you, it is important to get the help of an experienced Long Island trespass attorney to help you understand your rights and walk you through the legal processes involved. A conviction of trespassing in New York can have severe legal and non-legal consequences. Don’t leave the matter of your legal defense up to chance. Contact Edward Palermo Criminal Defense today to schedule a consultation.

Definition and Types of Trespassing under New York Law

Trespassing is defined as knowingly intruding on or entering another person’s property without authorization. It involves crossing boundaries set by the property owner without the owner’s consent or knowledge. There are several types of trespassing in New York:

Simple Trespass (NY Penal Code § 140.05) 

Occurs when an individual enters or remains unlawfully on a property without explicit permission from the owner. This is considered a violation rather than a misdemeanor or felony. Simple trespass is a violation punishable by a fine of up to $250 or up to 15 days in jail. It is not considered a crime; if a person is convicted of simple trespass, it will not go on their criminal record.

Criminal Trespass 

Criminal trespass involves unlawful entry or remaining in a building or property without permission from the property owner. The charges a person receives depend on the kind of establishment they unlawfully entered, if the person had a weapon, and if they have a prior history of criminal offenses. Criminal trespass in New York is divided into three degrees.

Criminal Trespass in the Third Degree (NY Penal Code § 140.10) 

A person commits the crime of criminal trespass in the third degree if they knowingly and unlawfully entered and remained on the property of another person and the property is:

  • Enclosed to prevent intruders
  • Used as a camp or a school
  • A housing project
  • A railroad yard

Criminal Trespass in the Third Degree is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to three months in jail. A one-year probation period can also be imposed instead of jail time.

Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree (NY Penal Code § 140.15): 

A person commits the crime of criminal trespass in the second degree if they knowingly and unlawfully entered and remained on the property of another person and:

  • The property is a dwelling or a residential property or a place where a person lodges in at night.
  • The offender is a Level 2 or 3 sex offender New York Sex Offender Registration Act entering a school where their victim is attending.

Criminal trespass in the second-degree class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail.

Criminal Trespass in the First Degree (NY Penal Code § 140.17): 

A person commits the crime of criminal trespass in the first degree if they knowingly and unlawfully entered and remained on the property of another person and:

  • The offender was possessing a deadly weapon or explosives. Under New York law, a deadly weapon can be a loaded weapon from which a shot can be discharged, or a knife, dagger, billy club, or knuckles.
  • The offender was possessing a firearm or knew that an accomplice possessed a firearm

Criminal trespass in the first-degree class D felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison. If the defendant has not had a felony conviction in the past ten years, it may be possible to have a lighter sentence.

The penalties for trespassing in New York vary depending on the type and severity of the offense. They range from a simple fine to imprisonment, and the consequences may extend beyond criminal penalties to include civil lawsuits. A criminal record may result in negative personal and professional consequences, such as difficulty finding employment, housing, or educational opportunities.

Criminal vs. Civil Trespassing

Criminal trespassing and civil trespassing are two different legal concepts with varying consequences. While criminal trespassing involves a violation of the law and prosecution by the state, civil trespassing is a claim brought by the property owner seeking monetary damages.

Criminal trespassing charges concern the state and aim to hold the offender responsible for breaking the law. The goal is to punish and deter future trespassing by the defendant and others. This may involve incarceration, fines, community service, or probation.

Civil trespassing, on the other hand, is a cause of action between private parties. In a civil trespass lawsuit, the property owner seeks compensation for the invasion of their property rights. The goal is not to punish the offender but to compensate the owner for any damage or losses caused by the trespass. A property owner may seek to file a civil trespass lawsuit regardless of whether a crime has been committed.

It is essential to understand the differences between criminal and civil trespassing and the potential consequences associated with each type. If you are facing trespassing charges, it is crucial to seek the appropriate legal counsel to navigate the complexities of the law and ensure the best possible outcome for your case.

Assessing Your Trespassing Charge

When facing a trespassing charge, it is important to assess the various aspects of the case to determine the optimal course of action to take. A thorough understanding of the elements of the charge, gathering all relevant evidence, and identifying potential defenses can help you navigate the legal process and potentially minimize the severity of the consequences, either by a reduction of the charges or securing a dismissal.

Understanding the Elements of Your Charge

When evaluating your trespassing charges, it’s important to understand the essential elements that constitute a trespassing offense. In New York, trespassing involves unlawfully entering or remaining on another person’s property without permission.

The prosecution must establish several elements to successfully convict you of trespassing. These elements often include proving whether:

  • The accused knowingly entered or remained on another person’s property.
  • The accused had no legal right or authority to be on the property.
  • The property owner forbade entry or asked the accused to leave.

A skilled Long Island criminal trespass attorney can assist in walking you through your charges and help you familiarize yourself with the relevant trespassing laws and provisions that pertain to your case. 

Gathering Evidence and Documentation

In preparation for your case, your attorney will gather all available evidence and documentation that may help refute the charges against you or strengthen your defense. Evidence and supporting information may include the following:

  • Witness statements: Your attorney can collect statements and testimony from individuals who were present at the time of the alleged trespassing. They may have witnessed circumstances that may help your case, such as an open public invitation to enter the property or that the property was not properly posted with clear “No Trespassing” signs.
  • Photos, videos, or audio recordings: These can help establish the conditions of the property and the circumstances surrounding the alleged trespass.
  • Communication records: If you can demonstrate that you had permission (explicit or implied) to enter or remain on the property, any evidence of communication between you and the property owner can support that claim.
  • Police reports: Your attorney can obtain a copy of the police report associated with your charge to ensure its accuracy and investigate any potential discrepancies in the officer’s account of events.

To beat charges of criminal trespass, it is important to cooperate with your attorney and provide information that can be useful for your defense. Your attorney would then be able to investigate the circumstances of your case and build an appropriate legal defense based on the evidence. 

Common Defenses Against Trespassing Charges

Trespassing is the act of unlawfully entering or remaining on another person’s property without their consent. Charges of criminal trespass can be reduced or dropped depending on whether the prosecution can successfully substantiate and prove the elements of the charges. Common trespassing defenses include:

Lack of Intent

A trespassing charge typically requires that the defendant acted with intent, meaning they knowingly and willfully entered or remained on the property without permission. If the accused can demonstrate that they were unaware that they were trespassing or did not intend to do so, this could serve as a defense against the charges.

Examples of situations where this defense may apply include accidental entry when lost or disoriented, or unknowingly entering a portion of private property not marked with “no trespassing” signs or other warnings. Additionally, evidence showing that the accused was intoxicated or otherwise not in the right state of mind may also support a lack of intent defense.

Mistake of Fact

A mistake of fact defense arises when the accused reasonably believed they had permission to be on the property, or that the property in question did not belong to the person alleging trespass. To successfully argue this defense, the defendant must show that their mistake was reasonable and that it negates the required intent for the trespassing charge.

Examples of a mistake of fact defense might include: interpreting an unclear property boundary or believing that the property was public land. Evidence may include property maps or records, unclear signage, or the testimony of other individuals who made the same mistake.

Consent or Authorization

One of the most basic defenses against a trespassing charge is that the person accused of trespassing had the consent or license of the property owner or occupant to be on the property. Consent means that the owner or occupant of the property granted their permission for the accused to enter and remain on the property, either verbally or in writing. A license is a more formal grant of permission to enter or use another’s property for a specific purpose, such as a written agreement to rent a space or obtain access to a facility.

To successfully argue consent or license, the defendant must prove that they had reasonable grounds to believe they had permission to be on the property. Evidence that may help in establishing this defense includes communication records, witness testimony, or a history of prior consent or license. However, it’s important to note that consent or license can be revoked, and if the property owner or occupant communicated their revocation of consent, this defense would no longer be valid.

Emergency or Necessity

The defense of necessity might apply if the accused trespassed on the property out of an urgent and immediate need to prevent injury, harm, or damage from an imminent danger. This defense acknowledges a person’s inherent right to protect themselves, others, or property from harm, even if it requires trespassing to do so. For the necessity defense to be successfully utilized, the defendant must demonstrate that the danger they sought to avoid was greater than the harm resulting from the trespass and that there were no other reasonable alternatives available.

Examples of situations where this defense might apply include: attempting to prevent a fire from spreading to a neighboring property, entering a property to rescue an injured person, or stopping an ongoing crime. Evidence supporting the necessity defense can include the severity of the ensuing harms or dangers, the lack of other reasonable alternatives, and the immediacy of the danger.

The best legal defense you can use is a defense that is tailored to your specific case. It is important to consult an experienced Long Island criminal defense attorney to determine potential defenses that may apply to your case. At Edward Palermo Criminal Defense, we can assess your trespassing charge, gather evidence, and develop a defense strategy tailored to your circumstances. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Consequences of a Trespassing Conviction

A criminal conviction can have a significant impact on a person’s employment prospects and civil rights. Many employers perform background checks on potential employees, and a criminal record may make it challenging to find or maintain a job. Some professions, like nursing, teaching, or law enforcement, may be particularly affected by a criminal history. It may also be more difficult to obtain professional licenses or certifications required in certain fields.

Additionally, a criminal conviction can affect a person’s civil rights, such as their right to vote, hold public office, or own a firearm. New York prohibits people who have been convicted of serious offenses and felonies from owning a firearm. A defendant may also be prohibited from jury duty as well as from being employed by the government after a conviction of a misdemeanor or a felony. 

To mitigate these effects, a defendant can explore options like expungement or record sealing or work with a re-entry program to help find employment or housing. Legal assistance may also be available to help navigate the post-trial consequences of a criminal conviction.

Additional consequences can also apply if the property owner decides to file a civil lawsuit against the defendant to recover any damages to their property.

Working with a Top-Rated Long Island Criminal Defense Attorney from Edward Palermo Criminal Defense

Getting the legal assistance of an experienced attorney can help in reducing the charges or avoiding the possibility of a conviction through their dismissal. At Edward Palermo Criminal Defense, we understand the significance of a conviction and how it can affect the personal and professional prospects of individuals charged with a crime on Long Island. 

Our team of skilled attorneys can assist in conducting a thorough investigation of your case and aggressively representing your rights and best interests in court. You don’t have to face your charges alone. Contact us today at (516) 280-2160 or (631) 265-1052 to schedule a consultation.