Can I be charged with criminal trespassing for unknowingly driving down a road marked "PR"?
walking home the night before, a man lost his phone and couldn't find it in the dark. He asked me to take him to find it the following day. He thought it had probably ended up in the ditch along side of the main road in which we were driving but couldn't stop due to traffic. This is why I pulled onto:1329PR NW and he got out to walk along the ditch. I picked him up a ways down the main road and he had cell phone in hand. There weren't any NO TRESPASSING signs anywhere, and we weren't doing anything maliciously. There were about 5 houses on the gravel road and a 10MPH speed sign, this is why I didn't think anything about it and I wasn't even aware that PR was an abbrev. for private road until we were pulled over and questioned by the police. They told the man who made the report what had happened and he still wanted to pursue the charges. We weren't arrested, but recieved a court date in the mail shortly after. Nobody had ever kicked us off of this property previously, and I do not have any priors for crim. tres., actually, the only thing I have on my criminal record is 1 DUI, and that was from four years ago. My court appointed lawer wants me to enter a guilty plea, but I don't feel as if I did this purposely and I would have done it differentl if I had known that this was a private road.
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A private road can be used by the general public and is open to all who wish to use it, but it primarily benefits those at whose request it was established. Unlike highways that are cared for by the public at large, private roads are maintained at the expense of the private individuals who requested the road. (Law Encyclopedia at Answers.com)
A private road is a road owned and maintained by a private individual, organization, or company rather than by a government. Consequently, unauthorized use of the road may be considered trespassing, and some of the usual rules of the road may not apply. The most common type of private road is a residential road maintained by a homeowners association, housing co-op, or other group of individual homeowners. (Wikipedia definition)
By the information I found about private roads above, it seems that you may be accountable based on the laws of your state, but moreso if the road was marked with a "No Trespassing" sign which you say was not there. I would definitely seek a different opinion as far as attorneys go, or maybe even hire your own if you are able. Do you have any family or friends with law degrees or work as police or who know someone fitting these descriptions?
Technically you can be charged, but I would be surprised if you were. The residents that live on the road or the person who made the report do not make the decision as to whether or not to charge you. That decision rests with the local law enforcement agency.
You mentioned that you were not arrested, but yet you were appointed a public defender by the court? This makes no sense because if you were never arrested this means that you were not charged. Furthermore, your offense is a misdemeanor. Courts in any jurisdiction do not appoint public defenders for misdemeanor's.
This picture sounds suspicious to me, do what you like, but I would not advise you to plead guilty in this situation. Even if they do charge you, cases like this are dismissed everyday.
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