Trespassing Charges in California
- Penal Code §602 -
Criminal Trespassing Charges – PC 602
Trespassing is the willful entry on the land of another without the owner’s consent or permission. Generally, trespassing is a misdemeanor crime in California under Penal Code section 602 (a.k.a., PC 602).
Any person who violates PC 602 can be punished by a maximum of 6 months in jail. A person can also be ordered to pay a fine of up to $1,000 for committing a trespass.
Depending on the circumstances, criminal charges for trespassing can also be reduced to an infraction or filed as a more serious felony offense.
1. What is considered trespassing?
Criminal trespassing in California refers to the act of entering or remaining on someone else's property without permission. The conduct is criminalized under California Penal Code section 602.
Included in the definition of trespass are the following:
Cutting down, destroying, or injuring any kind of wood or timber standing or growing upon the lands of another.
Willfully opening, tearing down, or otherwise destroying a fence on the land of another.
Carrying away any kind of wood or timber lying on the land of another.
Entering and occupying real property or structures of any kind without the consent of the owner.
Refusing or failing to leave land, real property, or structures belonging to, or lawfully occupied by, another.
Intentionally interfering with any lawful business by obstructing or intimidating those attempting to carry on the business, or their customers, and who refuses to leave the premises.
2. What is aggravated trespassing?
Criminal trespass is almost always filed as a misdemeanor offense. However, there are circumstances under which a person can be charged with a felony for trespassing in California. Aggravated trespassing is criminalized under California Penal Code §601.
According to PC 601, a person commits aggravated trespassing whenever s/he makes a credible threat to cause serious injury to another person and within 30 days enters onto the land of the person threatened.
Entering on private property without permission is considered trespassing in California.
A person may also commit aggravated trespassing by making a threat of serious injury to another and thereafter entering the workplace of the person threatened.
Aggravated trespassing is considered a wobbler offense, which means the prosecutor can file the criminal charge as a misdemeanor or as a felony. Ordinarily, a prosecutor will file an aggravated trespassing charge as a felony to use the possibility of reducing the offense as a tool when negotiating a resolution.
3. What are the penalties for trespassing?
The penalties for criminal trespassing depend on the severity of the offense with which the defendant is accused. As previously mentioned, trespassing can be charged as either an infraction, a misdemeanor, or a felony.
If the defendant is charged with an infraction for trespassing, then the person is only subject to a fine. The fine for a first offense is $75.00. The fine for a second offense is $250. Upon a third offense, the charge MUST be filed as a misdemeanor.
A misdemeanor is a mid-level offense in California. The maximum penalty for a person convicted of misdemeanor trespassing is 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
A person convicted of aggravated trespassing is subject to more serious punishment. A person convicted of PC 601 as a misdemeanor can be imprisoned for up to 1 year and fined up to $2,000. A person convicted of PC 601 as a felony can be imprisoned for up to 3 years and fined.
4. Does a conviction for trespassing go on your record?
A conviction means that the defendant was either found guilty or has pled guilty to the charges against them. A conviction for trespassing will create a criminal record that can later affect your ability to find employment or housing.
It is always best to avoid being convicted of the offense, if possible. Even when someone is caught “red handed”, there are still ways of avoiding a conviction. One of the most effective ways of preventing a conviction is through programs like Judicial Diversion under Penal Code section 1001.95.
Judicial Diversion allows a judge to pause the criminal proceedings against a defendant to permit them the opportunity to resolve the case by completing tasks, such as community service. If the defendant successfully completes all of the tasks ordered by the judge, then their case must be dismissed, and the records associated with the case must be sealed.
A defendant may be able to alleviate the consequences of a criminal record, in the event a conviction becomes inevitable. Under Penal Code section 1203.4, a criminal defendant may petition the court for an expungement of their criminal case. To see whether you are eligible for an expungement, visit the dedicated expungement page.
5. What are some common defenses to trespassing charges?
There are many defenses an experienced criminal defense lawyer can use to challenge criminal trespassing charges in California. Though the effectiveness of a particular defense depends on the specific facts of a case, some common defenses include:
Lack of Intent: If the defendant can demonstrate that they did not have the intent to trespass, it may be a valid defense. For example, if they genuinely believed they had permission to enter the property.
Consent: If the property owner gave explicit or implied consent for the defendant to be on the property, it can be a strong defense against trespassing charges.
Lack of Notice: If the property lacked proper signage or notice indicating that entry was prohibited, the defense may argue that the defendant was not adequately informed.
Necessity: In some cases, a necessity defense may be applicable if the defendant can demonstrate that they entered the property out of necessity to prevent greater harm.
It is important to keep in mind that the facts of every case are different and that the law may change. It is always recommended that someone charged with criminal trespassing contact a criminal defense lawyer to discuss the specifics of their case. JPLaw, P.C. is a full-service criminal defense firm located in Orange County, CA with a legal professional ready to fight for you!
6. Is it necessary to hire a criminal defense lawyer?
No, it is not always necessary to hire a lawyer. However, there are many benefits of having a legal professional assist you on your case. Some key advantages of hiring a criminal defense lawyer include:
Case Assessment and Strategy: A skilled defense attorney can assess the details of your case, identify strengths and weaknesses, and develop a strategic defense plan tailored to your specific situation.
Knowledge of Local Legal System: A local criminal defense attorney is often familiar with the local legal system, judges, and prosecutors. This familiarity can be an asset in understanding the dynamics of your case and predicting potential outcomes.
Protection of Rights: Your lawyer will ensure that your rights are protected throughout the legal process. They can challenge unlawfully obtained evidence and advocate for your rights during interactions with law enforcement.
Even if you don’t end up hiring a lawyer to assist on your case, it is always recommended that you at least contact a lawyer for a consultation. At JPLaw, P.C., potential clients always receive the benefit of a FREE consultation with an experience criminal defense attorney.
Contact An Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer
Before pleading guilty, it’s important you contact an experienced attorney who will take the time to review the facts of your case and fight for you. Just because you have been charged with a crime doesn’t mean you’re guilty. Unlock new opportunities and regain control of your future.
Get help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer who understands the complexities of the legal system and is dedicated to helping you. With personalized attention and a strategic approach, JPLaw, P.C. aims to minimize the impact of past mistakes on your life.
Take the first step toward a brighter future – contact JPLaw, P.C. today to schedule your FREE consultation.