Thanks in advance for any advice or information you can offer.
I received a ticket for trespassing a few months ago, and have a court date coming up on Monday. I am seeking advice on how, if at all possible, to get off without a fine or community service (or worse).
Basically, the situation is as follows: there is a section of industrially-zoned waterfront in Greenpoint, the part of Brooklyn where I live. A lot of it is abandoned and in disrepair (falling-down fences, garbage and debris, etc.) and a lot of people—myself included—have taken to hanging out there and watching the sunset or whatever.
One afternoon, a friend and I were hanging out in an area that is accessed by passing through a fairly large hole in a chain-link fence. This was somewhere I had been before, and I see people there all the time. It had never occurred to me that it was trespassing (though in hindsight it seems obvious) until two policemen pulled up and beckoned us over...with a siren. We both got tickets for trespassing with court dates already listed. It was pretty undramatic, but the cops seemed very uninterested in letting us off with a warning, even though we were polite and had just been soberly and quietly hanging out. I pled not guilty on mine, and received a letter saying I still needed to show up in court. So here I am, seeking advice on how to get off the hook.
Possibly relevant information:
— There wasn't a "No Trespassing" sign posted
— In fact, there was a sign that said "No Swimming", among other things, posted inside the fenced-off area where we were (potentially this could be leveraged as an indication that the area wasn't totally off-limits?)
— The fence through which we passed is in pretty sketchy condition, and therefore (possibly) ambiguous as a marker of something off limits. A few yards over, it's completely folded over and falling down into the water. Basically, it's no fortress... and there's no barbed wire. When we expressed confusion at the fact we were trespassing, the cops said "You passed through a fence...the fence means you are supposed to stay out" in response.
— As I said, people hang out here all the time (though I am not sure that helps my case)
— I have a clean record, but I'm not an American citizen (I'm Canadian, here on a student visa)
— I was reading up on trespassing law, and apparently "A person is guilty of trespass when he knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in or upon premises." (here
) I am wondering whether I can somehow persuade them that I wasn't aware I was trespassing, and therefore be not guilty?
Anyway, again, any advice you can offer is much appreciated. Ideally, I'd like to get off the hook entirely, but a fine wouldn't be the end of the world. Some sort of misdemeanor or whatever on my record might be a bigger problem.
Thanks in advance!