Kenilworth Trespass Offense Results In Conviction
Trespass Charges in Union County New Jersey
Contact Our Former Prosecutors For Assistance Defending Your Trespass Offense
Union County Family Court Judge Theresa Mullen found herself on the other side of the bench this week and was found guilty of trespass. This unusual case began a year ago when Mullen sued St. Theresa’s School in Kenilworth and the Archdiocese of Newark. The suit challenged the school’s decision to exclude Mullen’s daughter from playing on the boys’ basketball team, even though the school did not have a girls’ basketball team. Both of Mullen’s daughters were then expelled from the school, allegedly in retaliation for the lawsuit.
On February 1, 2017, the school sent Mullen a letter, telling Mullen not to bring her daughters to the school, citing school policy about ongoing civil litigation with the school. Mullen did not see the letter as a directive, and she visited the school with her children the next day.
Once at the school, Mullen was advised that her daughters were expelled. Then, the Archdiocese lawyer said that Mullen must leave the school premises immediately or they would consider her a trespasser. With the position that ‘we are not going to go anywhere,’ Mullen remained in the school. She was ultimately charged criminally with a Defiant Trespass charge. A Middlesex County criminal judge handling the case found that “Mullen remained in the school knowing she was not licensed or privileged to do so after actual notice to leave was communicated to her several times.”
Now that Mullen has been found guilty of criminal trespass, she is scheduled to be sentenced on April 4th. She has not been suspended from her duties as a family court judge in Union County as of this writing. One of the troubling ironies of this case is that when it comes to fairness Mullen is in the right and the school is in the wrong. The school should have a basketball team for girls, and the school should not have expelled the students just because someone is taking a stand against the school’s discriminatory policies. But now Mullen has been convicted of criminal trespass, and the school is allowed to continue to discriminate.
The Offense of Criminal Trespass in New Jersey
New Jersey statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:18-3, separates the offense of criminal trespass into three specific types (i) Unlicensed entry of structures; (ii) Unlawful peering into windows; and (iii) Defiant trespasser.
- Unlicensed Entry of Structures. A person will be guilty of unlicensed entry if he or she enters a building without authorization, such as entering a home or school without permission. A violation of this type of trespass is a fourth-degree crime, which carries a possible six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
- Unlawful Peering into Windows. This type of trespass covers the classic “peeping tom” offense. If found guilty of the fourth-degree crime of unlawful peering, a person again faces six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
- Defiant Trespasser. A person will be guilty of defiant trespassing if he or she enters a place in spite of being notified that he or she cannot be on the premises. The notice can be an actual in-person communication or through a “private property” or “do not enter”-type sign. Defiant trespassing is a petty disorderly persons offense, and it carries a potential sentence of 30 days in jail and a fine of $1,000.
There are other consequences for criminal trespass in addition to possible fines and jail time. Those consequences include restitution to the victim to reimburse for any loss, suspension of a driver’s license, and a criminal record.
Defenses to Trespass. The statute provides some possible defenses to trespass. They include:
- The premises was abandoned
- The premises was open to the public, and the accused complied with all lawful conditions of being on the premises
- The accused honestly believed that he or she had permission to be on the premises.
With regard to the Mullen case, it appears that she fell under the “defiant trespasser” type of trespass and is, therefore, looking at possible jail time and a fine at sentencing. Mullen’s lawyer indicates a plan to appeal the court’s finding of guilt, stating that there was reasonable doubt on whether Mullen was permitted to remain on the premises.
Union New Jersey Trespass Lawyers
While staying on the premises when someone tells you to leave, or being a “peeping tom” may sound like minor infractions, they could actual result in jail. Accordingly, criminal trespass is not an offense to be taken lightly. Be sure to have quality representation by a skilled attorney when you go to court to answer for a trespass charge. The lawyers at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall know the best way to present your case so you can avoid a criminal conviction anywhere in Union County, including Union Township, Cranford, Kenilworth, Elizabeth, Westfield or Linden. A seasoned lawyer will be able to challenge the State’s case and aggressively fight on your behalf so you can win your case. Call our Cranford office or Union Office for a free consultation.
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