A man couldn't wait for a McKean County bar to open, so he decided to let himself in through a window. The bar owner had noticed the man wandering around the establishment and had contacted police, but by the time law enforcement arrived, the man had already entered the bar and passed out at a table in the kitchen. The police arrested the man and filed a felony charge of Criminal Trespass and a summary offense of Public Drunkenness. The judge must not have felt that the man was too much of a danger because the bail was unsecured, meaning the man did not actually have to pay any money in order to remain free while the case is pending.
State College Trespass Charges
As a State College criminal defense attorney, I represent many Penn State students and visitors to University Park that are charged with trespass offenses, and most of those offenses are alcohol related. For example, many students live in State College apartments or Penn State dorms that look identical from floor to floor. Many drunk students wander to the wrong floor, enter through an unlocked door, and take a seat in the wrong residence. Regrettably, while the door is unlocked, the student did not have consent to enter, so the entry is a trespass. When a person enters into a residence without consent in Pennsylvania, the charge is a felony offense of criminal trespass.
Many Penn State students are also charged with criminal trespass after they "piggy back" their way into a dorm to meet with friends. Normally, in order to enter a Penn State dorm, a resident must swipe his or her identification card through a security station at any entrance. Students that want to enter simply wait for a residence to arrive and lawfully enter, and the student then follows the resident into the dorm. Many dorms, if not all, have surveillance cameras at the entrances, so the police can use the video evidence of the piggy back to charge a student with felony criminal trespass charges.
Resolving a Penn State Trespass Case
Many people think that having a drunk student enter into the wrong apartment should not be a big deal, but Pennsylvania law does treat the offense severely as it is graded as a felony offense. The law wants to protect a person's residence from an unlawful entry. In some State College trespass cases, the Centre County District Attorney does permit the person to participate in a first-time offender program called Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD). Under this program, a participant must often be supervised by the probation department, pay ARD costs and fees, perform hours of community service, and submit to a drug and alcohol evaluation and complete any recommended treatment. Upon completion of the program, the person can then request that the court dismiss and expunge the charges.
ARD is often not approved in Centre County for felony offenses, including trespass charges. If ARD is not approved, the primary concern is to try and convince the prosecutor to issue a plea offer that would allow for the dismissal of the felony charge. In some cases, the prosecutor will agree to reduce the grading of the trespass charge from a felony to a misdemeanor offense. While no Penn State student wants to enter the job market with a criminal record, having a misdemeanor on a record is much more palatable when compared to having a felony record. In some cases, the primary role of the defense attorney is to mitigate the damage and get the best resolution possible.