This week, our criminal lawyers respond to a young Marylander panicking about the impact of a pending trespassing charge on their military and academic futures -- all to shoot a music video on an empty school campus.
The Question: What do I do about a trespassing charge? What happens now?
So yesterday, me and 8 other people I was with got charged with trespassing inside a public school by some cops.
We are roughly around 18 years of age and were originally at the location to shoot a music video for one of my friend's songs. I never thought we were going to actually go inside the closed school, even though someone said that the door was unlocked. I was under the assumption that we were going to shoot the music video outside.
Up to this point, I was still very hesitant about being in the building as there were cameras down every hall. But, once the video director came, I was more eased as he was an adult who seemed pretty seasoned in this field and I was under the assumption that this was going to be fine.
Turns out an hour later, I go outside and see an officer patrolling the school. He then proceeds to tell me that an alarm was triggered in the cafeteria of the school (which I didn't know it was the cafeteria at the time) and asked if I knew anything about it. I told him I didn't.
I then later called my friend who was the artist of the song and the main star of this music video to inform him that there was a cop outside.
Everyone then left the building as more cops arrived and we were thus charged with CR 6-403 trespassing.
The cops on the scene seemed pretty understanding and just disappointed in us that we went into the school but it also seemed like they were saying this situation should really damage our future careers or affect us that much.
However, it may be possible to request an expungement -- basically a public erasing of the criminal charge -- if you are not convicted.
Not all cases end in "guilty" or "not guilty," but usually only a lawyer can thread that particular needle on behalf of clients.
For example, a lawyer may be able to persuade the State Attorney's office to dismiss the case altogether in exchange for some community service hours. A dismissal is not a guilty charge, setting you up for an expungement down the road.
3. How will this trespassing charge impact my friend's military career?
Lawyers aren't required to take on every requested case from possible clients, and the closer you get to the trial, the more money you need upfront. Your legal counsel needs to register themselves as your lawyer for the charge, after all, and that takes time.
Make them drop everything, and you'll pay an emergency premium.
6. Can we hire one criminal defense lawyer to represent all of us who were charged at the same time?
You're probably thinking of class-action lawsuits, where one lawyer (or one legal team) handles a giant bulk civil litigation matter on behalf of many plaintiffs.
For criminal matters, each defendant needs their own attorney to prevent possible conflicts of interest.
7. If the school was unlocked or wasn't posted as private property, then does it count as trespassing?
While you didn't initially ask this question, this seems to be an implication spread throughout your retelling of the incident: That maybe the trespassingcharge doesn't count because you didn't see a sign, or that the door wasn't locked.
If there were signs that forbid entry to people after-hours, then it might be trespassing -- even if you didn't see the signs, and even if the school was unlocked.
A criminal defense lawyer can argue this point, of course, depending on the circumstances.
Our automatic disclaimer: We're lawyers, but not necessarily your lawyer, and do not represent the individual who asked this question. We're providing this information for general educational purposes based on the publicly available information provided by the anonymous Internet user. Any number of details may change how this individual's attorney may pursue this legal situation, differently from how we suppose above. If you have a similar question, then you should consult with a lawyer about your specific situation to get a "real" response!