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State of New Jersey in the Interest of X.B.

402 N.J. Super. 23, 952 A.2d 521 (App. Div. 2008)

LANDLORD-TENANT; PUBLIC HOUSING — Persons with criminal or delinquency convictions who have been given notice that they have been placed on a no-trespass list are barred from entering public housing complexes even though there is no procedure to have one’s name removed from such a list.

A minor, who was found to be delinquent by reason of a weapons offense, was given notice that he had been placed on a list that according to a trespass statute banned individuals with criminal or delinquency convictions from entering a public housing complex. Three years after he was informed of being placed on the list, the minor was spotted by police as he rode a bicycle across the housing complex. As the police approached the minor’s home to inform his mother of the trespass, the minor became hostile and confrontational with them. According to the police, this resulted in a disturbance involving other juveniles. The police then attempted to arrest the minor who resisted physically and struck a police officer with his elbow. After being subdued and arrested, the minor was charged with defiant trespass for his presence at the housing complex and for resisting arrest. The lower court determined that the police officer’s testimony was more credible than that of the minor’s witnesses and found the minor delinquent. He was sentenced to one year at a juvenile correctional facility with credit for twenty-three days served. A subsequent motion brought by the minor challenging the constitutionality of application of the trespass statute was denied by the lower court.

On appeal, the Appellate Division disagreed with the minor’s argument that he was unconstitutionally placed on the list. Instead, it held that he had been placed on the list for a previous finding of delinquency and not based on an unjustifiable standard such as race, religion or another arbitrary classification. The minor’s argument that the trespass statute was constitutionally defective because there was no means to have oneself removed from it was rejected because he never made an attempt to have himself removed, which the Court noted might have been possible under an action in lieu of prerogative writs. Additionally, the Court noted that the minor had not been acquitted of the previous offense and that he never asserted a legitimate reason for being on the property such as visiting a relative. The lower court’s findings of delinquency and the minor’s placement on the list were found to be adequately based on the evidence on the record, but in its affirmation, the Court urged the housing authority to consider a means for allowing individuals to challenge the placement of their names on the list.

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