Though trespassing is against the law, it is an unusual charge to be faced with. Most incidents that are considered “trespassing” offenses are trivial enough to not involve the police and not be cause for arrest or a criminal citation.
A criminal trespassing charge in Massachusetts is nearly always the result of a deliberate and willful act, not a simple mistake of wandering into the wrong place.
It could be a political statement or protest, and be associated with a disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace offense.
Trespassing offenses may also be charged in conjunction with a domestic abuse accusation or a violation of a restraining order, in which you are on another person’s property who wishes to avoid contact with you or otherwise accused of harassing or stalking someone.
Trespassing Laws and Penalties
The penalties under the Massachusetts statute Ch266 Section 120 are very minor. The maximum penalty for trespassing on private property is a $100 fine and up to 30 days in jail.
Under the law, a formal notice must be communicated, either by posting a no trespassing sign on the property, or otherwise by direct notification.
Trespassing on public property such as state land or state controlled institutions has a penalty of up to 3 months in prison. See MGL Ch266, Sec 123.
Fighting a Trespassing Charge
We can fight a trespassing charge on a variety of grounds, such as:
- You weren’t notified.
- The person alleging trespassing didn’t have lawful control to forbid you.
We can also simply argue, particular if you receive a citation to a clerk magistrate’s hearing, that the offense is so trivial as to not rise to the level of being in the interest of the court and the Commonwealth to move forward with a prosecution.
Especially in the case of juvenile trespassing, whether adventure-seeking, hiking, or trying to get a great Instagram shot of a restricted area, like a quarry, or some decrepit and dangerous buildings. No one should be stuck with a criminal record that could impact a young person’s future for a trivial lapse in judgment.
I wrote a book about fighting cases and clerk’s hearings and how to avoid a criminal charge going forward.
Because these charges are rarely sought outside of other, more serious circumstances, you very likely need a lawyer to help you sort out exactly what is behind this charge, and how to resolve it without a criminal conviction on your record.
In particular, if it is a trespassing accusation related to a domestic situation, these cases can take some work to resolve to ensure the courts and the accuser that you are not a threat to that person.
Public Trespassing Defense
In cases of public trespassing, the police and the Commonwealth may have arrested you because they feel you are a disruptive threat or a danger to public safety.
You may find that Federal Homeland Security agents or the FBI get involved in the investigation. In a case where there is a serious accusation behind this otherwise trivial charge, the legal problem you face is more than meets the eye.
Even though you truly did nothing wrong or serious, the authorities will be going at you hard to be sure you are not a threat, so the prosecutor for the Commonwealth isn’t going to dismiss the case until the Federal agencies have cleared you.
We have handled sensitive cases like this before, so please call us for help.
Call today for a free consultation on any trespassing offense you are accused of, with or without other related criminal charges.