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Understanding trespassing laws in New York

Whether the intent is to engage in some urban exploring for fun, to take a shortcut home or to satisfy your curiosity about a quirky neighbor, you and other New York residents should understand that the law does not consider trespassing a harmless activity. The same goes for those whose intentions may be less than innocent - say, for instance, entering someone's property without their consent to settle an argument or refusing to leave the premises of an establishment after closing time. The consequences of a trespassing chargecan be serious.

What exactly is trespassing? The law defines it as knowingly entering or remaining on property without the property owner or manager's permission or refusing to leave when asked to do so. Property owners should have signs, gates and other forms of communication to warn people that the land or building is private property and trespassing is not allowed.

The good news is that a simple trespassing charge is usually just a violation in New York, although it may come with a potential fine, jail sentence of up to 15 days or court order to perform community service. The property owner may also hold you liable for any damages that are a result of the alleged trespassing. However, according to FindLaw, laws for more serious trespassing charges include the following:

  • Second or third-degree misdemeanor charges for entering a building, property or residence without the owner's permission
  • Felony charges for trespassing with a firearm or deadly weapon on your person
  • Increased penalties for subsequent convictions

It is not always simple to determine the type of property you may not encroach upon. For example, you may think that you are cutting across an open field to walk home from work when, in fact, the field may belong to a residential property. You may also find it necessary to trespass to help someone in trouble. Like other criminal charges, trespassing is a complicated area requiring a sound defense.

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