Homeless persons may raise defense of necessity to criminal trespass charges when entering property in winter to escape bitter cold

In Commonwealth v. Magadini, Commonwealth v. Magadini, 2015 WL 11070269 (Mass. 2016), the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled that a homeless man who repeatedly entered private property in winter time to escape the cold was entitled to try to convince the jury that necessity justified the entries. David Magadini was homeless and was arrested and convicted seven times for sleeping in the lobby or hallway of commercial buildings that included retail establishments, offices, and apartments. Magadini was a lifelong resident of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, had no home, and had been barred in the past from staying a s homeless shelter in the town. The court held that necessity justifies trespass if (1) he faces a “clear and imminent danger”; (2) a reasonable expectation that the entry on property will abate the danger; (3) he has no “legal alternative which will be effective in abating the danger;” and (4) the “Legislature has not acted to preclude the defense by a clear and deliberate choice regarding the values at issue.” Id. at *3. The court had little trouble determining that  the wintry weather conditions on the dates of the offenses presented a clear and imminent danger. It found that his inability to find housing in Great Barrington that he could afford, along with his prior banishment from the local homeless shelter, were sufficient to find that he had no legally available alternatives on the nights in question.