Complaints were made by a property owner of the Township of Hopewell, Mercer County, against the above-named defendants for violations of paragraph 2 of Township Ordinance No. 142, as amended. Hearings were had in the Municipal Court of the Township of Hopewell, the defendants were convicted and fines were imposed. Each of the defendants appealed to this court from the convictions and by consent the appeals were consolidated for disposition herein.
On the day fixed for the hearing, motion was made on behalf of the defendants-appellants for judgments of acquittal upon the ground that the ordinance for violation of which they were convicted is void.
Paragraph 2 of the ordinance alleged to have been violated is as follows:
"2. Hereafter no person shall enter upon privately owned property in the Township of Hopewell with firearm whether for the purpose of hunting, taking or killing any bird or animal or otherwise, except the owners or lessees of said premises and the members of his immediate family, unless such person shall have first secured the written consent of the owner or lessee so to do."
Paragraph 3 of the ordinance provides for a fine not exceeding $200 or imprisonment not exceeding 90 days or both upon conviction of violation of any of the provisions of the ordinance.
A trespass, as such, is viewed generally as a private wrong and was not an indictable criminal offense at common law. State v. Burroughs , 7 N.J.L. 426 (Sup. Ct. 1802). Any criminal sanctions against a trespasser must necessarily be statutory, since trespass would not be encompassed by N.J.S. 2 A:85-1, providing for punishment as misdemeanors of offenses indictable at common law and not otherwise expressly provided for by statute.
In State v. Burroughs, supra , the defendant was indicted for that he "with force and arms * * * wilfully, maliciously and unlawfully * * * did take up, remove and carry away * * * a certain corner-stone erected and
placed in the boundary line * * * with intent to injure and endamage * * * Charles Collins." The defendant was convicted and appealed. In reversing the conviction, the court said, "The offense charged is exclusively a private injury, and in no way concerns the public farther than any other private wrong."
The first statute in this State concerning trespassing by humans was civil in nature. L. 1857, p. 16. It provided that a person who shall unlawfully enter upon land not his own after having been forbidden so to do by the owner or legal possessor shall forfeit to the owner or possessor the sum of three dollars and court costs.
In Bregguglia v. Borough of Vineland , 53 N.J.L. 168 (Sup. Ct. 1890), the defendant violated an ordinance which prohibited persons from unnecessarily going upon, driving over or crossing the yards or private grounds of others without permission. The defendant was convicted and appealed. The court, in reversing the conviction, held that the ordinance was ...