You Shall Not (Tres)Pass! (OK, sometimes even I have to unleash the inner nerd…)

July 18, 2014

The offense of “trespass” in New York is itself actually a violation level offense (a non-criminal offense punishable by a fine and up to 15 days in jail).  It’s those criminal trespass statutes that you need to be aware of, as a conviction of any one of them will result in your being saddled with a criminal record…not something to take lightly.

Below are the somewhat abbreviated statutes for the various trespass offenses in New York.  The distinctions between them are pretty obvious, I hope.  But the essence of a trespass or criminal trespass offense is present in each of the individual statutes, that is, “knowingly enters or remains unlawfully.”

It’s not enough that someone just wandered onto private property and set up camp for the night.  Such oblivious woodsman must know that his presence on the premises is unlawful.  For example, if he just decided to ignore an entire wall of trees glowing orange in the moonlight from the countless “Posted” and “No Trespassing” placards, then he’s trespassing.  However, unwittingly wandering onto unmarked and indistinguishable private property from land upon which Mr. Camper was lawfully present, probably not a trespass!

Trespass can also be a consequence of overstaying your welcome.  Let’s say our inattentive camper decided to come down from the mountain to find a sporting goods store for some trail mix, and in his quest for that bag of twigs, nuts and dried fruit he knocks several displays of thermal socks over with his enormous hiking pack.  It’s not too far-fetched to presume that the store owner or manager might ask him to leave immediately before he causes any more damage.  In that instance, hopefully Mr. Camper can find the door of the store a lot easier than the “No Trespassing” signs in the woods, because if he doesn’t exit the store as directed he could be looking at a second trespass charge, and all in all a pretty crappy camping trip.

PL 140.05  Trespass

            A person is guilty of trespass when he knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in or upon the premises.

            Trespass is a violation.

PL 140.10 Criminal Trespass in the Third Degree

            A person is guilty of criminal trespass in the third degree when he knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a building or upon real property that is

(a)  fenced in or otherwise enclosed in a manner to exclude intruders

(b)  a school or overnight children’s’ camp

(c)  a school and the person has been expressly asked to leave by someone of authority but does not leave.

(d)  a public housing project and the person is in violation of posted rules of entry and use or of a request to leave by a person of authority

(e)  a railroad yard.

Criminal Trespass in the third degree is a class B misdemeanor.

PL 140.15 Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree

            A person is guilty of criminal trespass in the second degree when

  1. He knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a dwelling (see the blog entry about Burglary for the definition of a dwelling versus a building).
  2. A person required to register as a sex offender enters the school of the victim of the sex offense (certain exceptions apply).

Criminal trespass in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor

PL 140.17 Criminal Trespass in the First Degree

            A person is guilty of criminal trespass in the first degree when he knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a building, and when, in the course of committing such crime, he:

            Possesses or knows that another participant in the crime possesses an explosive, deadly weapon, operable firearm and/or readily accessible ammunition.  

            Criminal trespass in the first degree is a class D felony.

If you are someone you care about is charged with trespass or criminal trespass, call the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Catalano & Carpenter LLP today at (845) 454-1919 to schedule a free consultation.