Trespassing Laws in California
California’s Penal Code Section 602, criminal trespassing, prohibits an individual from entering or remaining on another person’s property without permission. The state of California has established numerous situations where a trespassing crime can occur. For example, an individual can be considered a trespasser if they enter a restaurant with the intent to create a disturbance and drive customers away. Typically, all owners conduct their business with an implied consent that customers can enter to engage in normal business transactions, but it does not apply to individuals who enter their business to interfere or obstruct their operation. This also applies to individuals who fail to leave hotel property after refusing to pay or a failing to leave a public facility after it’s closed. In basic terms, this means an individual can initially enter a property with consent, but after the consent no longer exists, a trespassing offense has been committed. Let’s examine the legal definition of criminal trespass below.
California Penal Code Section 602 – Trespass
By law, there are a variety of situations that can be considered trespassing. In Los Angeles County, some of the most common forms of criminal trespass include:
- When a person refuses to leave a property after being asked to leave
- When a person enters and occupies someone’s property without permission
- When a person enters on someone’s property with the intent to obstruct or interfere with business
- When a person enters on someone’s property with the intent to damage their property
As you can see, the legal definition of trespassing can be vague and complicated. In order to be convicted of criminal trespass, there are specific elements of the crime that has to be proven by the prosecutor. These include: you willfully entered on someone’s property, you had the intent to interfere with their property rights, and you actually interfered or obstructed with their property rights.
In the majority of cases, trespassing in California is misdemeanor crime. If convicted, the legal penalties can include up to 6 months in a county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. There are a variety of legal defenses that can be used by an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney. It may be possible to have your charges reduced or even dismissed. The most common legal defenses include: you had the legal right to be on the property, had consent to be on the property, did not obstruct or interfere with activity, or the property had no signs or fencing. There are siutations where trespassing can be charged as a felony offense. Let's examine below.
California Penal Code Section 601 – Aggravated Trespass
Under California Penal Code Section 601, aggravated trespassing is potentially a felony crime with harsh legal consequences. Aggravated trespass is commonly known as felony trespass. In basic terms, aggravated trespass is when you commit trespassing within 30 days of making a credible threat of harm to an individual while on their property. In Los Angeles County, aggravated trespass charges are frequently filed in connection with domestic violence or stalking cases. In order to be convicted of aggravated trespass, the Los Angeles County prosecutor has to prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, you threatened another person with the intent to place them in fear of their safety, and within one month, you entered their property to carry out the threat. As you can see, the specific details and circumstances are important in supporting a criminal charge of aggravated trespass. Let’s look at the legal definition of aggravated trespass below.
The legal definition of aggravated trespassing has specific elements of the crime that have to be proven in order to be convicted. These elements include:
- You made a credible threat to cause a serious bodily injury to another individual
- The threat was intended to place the other individual in reasonable fear of their safety or safety of their immediate family members
- Within 30 days of the threat, you unlawfully entered the other individual’s home or workplace with the specific intent to carry out the threat
Credible threats must make the target reasonably fear their safety. These threats can be in writing, orally, or even through conduct. Legally, serious bodily injury means physical conditions, including concussion, bone fractures, serious wounds or disfigurement. See our blog: Arson Laws in California. Aggravated trespassing can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony offense, commonly known as a "wobbler." In deciding how to charge the trespassing offense, the prosecutor will typically base their decision on the specific nature and circumstances of the accusation and the criminal history of the defendant. If you are convicted of felony aggravated trespass, the legal penalties can include up 16 months to 3 years in county jail, a $10,000 fine, and felony probation.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer may use several common legal defenses against charges of aggravated trespassing. They can argue that the alleged threat was not credible and that you did not have any intent to place the other individual in reasonable fear of their safety. They can also argue that you did not enter the other individuals home or workplace with intent to actually carry out the threat or you didn’t know it was their workplace.
Consulting with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been accused of misdemeanor trespass or felony aggravated trespass, it’s critical to consult with a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at Eisner Gorin LLP immediately. Our attorneys need to thoroughly examine the details leading to your arrest in order to determine best legal options moving forward. Early intervention into your case by our law firm can be critical to the outcome of your case. Our experience with pre-fling intervention means you may be able to avoid the formal filing of charges. It may also be possible to have you charges reduced to a lesser offense. Your first step is to call our office for a case evaluation at 877-781-1570.