In New York, trespassing can vary between a relatively minor misdemeanor or a very serious felony depending on the details of the charge. Regardless of those details, support from a skilled NYC criminal lawyer is vital for anyone who wants to defend themselves from such a charge. If you are accused of any degree of criminal trespass, it is vital that you seek out qualified legal help as soon as possible.
All criminal trespass involves entering private property without permission, even without the intent to commit another crime. This extends to people who stay on private property after they have been asked to leave. The state recognizes three different types of trespassing, depending on the type of property that was entered, whether or not the trespasser was armed, and occasionally their intentions or their actions while trespassing.
3rd Degree Trespass
Criminal trespass in the third degree is a misdemeanor in New York. It carries a possible sentence of a $500 fine and up to three months in jail. A history of misdemeanors can also lead to alternative sentencing for some other crimes, so a conviction can lead to significant consequences even after the sentence has been carried out.
This degree of trespassing consists of knowingly entering private property without permission if the property meets one of the following conditions:
- The property is enclosed.
- It is being used as a camp or as a school.
- It is a railroad yard.
- It is a housing project.
It is important to note that meeting any one of those requirements is sufficient for the act to count as 3rd degree trespassing. It does not need to meet all of those conditions.
2nd Degree Trespass
This is a more serious form of trespassing, but it still counts as a misdemeanor. Individuals who are convicted of 2nd degree criminal trespass face a maximum fine of $1000, a prison term of up to one year, and up to three years of probation.
This type of trespass is very simple. A person who enters an individual’s dwelling without permission commits 2nd degree criminal trespass, as long as they do not intend to commit a crime by doing so. If they do enter with the intention of committing a crime, they are committing burglary rather than criminal trespass, which is a much more serious crime.
1st Degree Trespass
1st degree criminal trespass is the most serious form of trespassing. Unlike the others, it is considered a felony. That means that the long-term consequences of this type of trespass are significantly greater than those of the others. The immediate consequences are also significantly more severe. This type of trespass is considered a type D non-violent felony, so it can lead to a prison sentence of anywhere 1-7 years.
Criminal trespass in the 1st degree has a fairly strict definition. It requires knowingly entering private property without permission, while either possessing an explosive or deadly weapon or knowing that another trespasser has an explosive or deadly weapon.
Defending Against a Charge
A skilled lawyer can often mount a successful defense against a trespassing charge, most often by proving that the state lacks the evidence to prosecute. Trespassing is only a crime if it is done knowingly, and establishing that the defendant had that knowledge is often difficult. Other defenses are also possible, depending on the circumstances of the case. Most people lack the legal skills to argue in their own defense, so the best thing to do when charged with trespassing is to get into contact with a good lawyer and follow their advice.