Go Directly to Jail: Trespassing & the Law

The June 11th, 2013 installment of the Wanderlust School of Transgressive Placemkaing focused on what kind of trouble you can get into and what to do about it.
Speakers: Wylie Stecklow and Patricia A. Wright (jump to bios)

Information provided is for guidance only. Any possible encounter with a police officer, security or a property owner is highly specific and subject to interpretation within the law.

What is Trespassing?

According the the NY Penal Code (140.05), trespass is committed when “A person is guilty of trespass when he knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in or upon premises.” A person “enters or remains unlawfully” in or upon premises when he is not licensed or privileged to do so.

Trespass and the Law

  • Non-criminal trespass is a violation. There are also 3 degrees of criminal trespass (information is summary only, see entire penal code for full language)
  • Criminal Trespass in the 3rd degree (140.10): entering a fenced or enclosed building, or a school. Class B Misdemeanor
  • Criminal Trespass in the 2nd degree (140.15): knowingly entering or remaining unlawfully in a dwelling/home. Class A Misdemeanor
  • Criminal Trespass in the 1st degree (140.17): knowingly entering or remaining unlawfully in a building while in possession of explosives, deadly weapons*, firearms, or knowingly in the company of someone carrying a firearm. Class D felony.

You cannot be arrested if the police do not see you trespassing, or there is not an accompanying witness.

*Deadly weapons, as defined in the penal code, includes just about everything, including sharp and blunt objects, brass knuckles, blackjacks, etc. Do not bring any object that is or could be defined as a weapon! This includes switchblades and knives.

Tips for Trespassing

  1. Make sure your record is clean of tickets: If you are apprehended by a police officer, they will run your ID through the system. If you have any unpaid tickets or violations, you will be arrested (even if they are traffic tickets).
  2. Carry ID: You are required to carry identification. Do not trespass without ID or deny ID to an officer, because you can then be taken in for fingerprinting.
  3. Ask for a Summons or a DAT (Desk Appearance Ticket): Either of these options is likely preferable to being arrested and jailed. If you sense the officer is amenable, try asking for a summons or a DAT. A summons is written on the spot, does not involve arrest, and is only a monetary fine. A Desk Appearance Ticket does involve arrest (you will be photographed and fingerprinted) but you are not put in jail until arraignment. You are allowed to appear in court on your own on the date indicated on the DAT. Paperwork for DATs is sometimes not run until after you leave.
  4. Time Your Trespassing Accordingly: NYC police officers have monthly quotas/“productivity goals” that must be met by the end of the month. Plan your trespassing early in the month so you are less likely to be arrested if caught.

About the Speakers:

Wylie Stecklow is a NYC Civil Rights Attorney. Clients include Occupy Wall Street, Global Revolution TV, Rev. Billy & Choir, Counsel in Rodriguez v. Winski suing JP Morgan Chase, Mitsudan, Brookfield, NYC, Bloomberg, and Deputy Inspector Winski for First Amendment Violations at Occupy related events.

Patricia A. Wright was a Bronx County Assistant District Attorney from 2008 to 2012. Her experience on the other side of the aisle made a valuable impact on how she thought about our legal system. Injustice comes from within the system as well as from the outside. Ms. Wright struck out on her own to address this issue and to make sure that the she could help the citizens of New York have a fair and successful shot at traversing the often complex criminal justice system. She served from 2008 to 2010 as a NYC Mentor advising young women, and as a youth leader in a United Nations NGO focused on world peace and tolerance. Her research includes studying recidivism rates of African American women in the criminal justice system and the concept of prosecutorial discretion. In addition to practicing criminal law, Ms. Wright currently practices landlord tenant law and employment discrimination, among other areas.