California penal code 602 defines trespass as entering or remaining on a person’s property illegally without their permission. There are different ways in which a person can commit trespass for example, entering a property without permission, remaining on a property after being told to leave, entering a property after being forbidden from doing so, or remaining on a property that is closed/ no longer in use.
If you have been charged with trespass, you may face legal penalties like heavy fines and jail time. Get in touch with us at Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm if you are facing trespass charges in the Pasadena area.
The Legal Definition of Trespass
In California, a person commits trespass when they enter or remain on someone else’s property without the owner’s consent. Note that the owner does not need to post “no trespassing” signs or notify the public that they do not want visitors on their property. The law simply assumes that the owner has not given consent unless they have done so explicitly.
For you to face trespass charges in California, the prosecutor must show the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant willfully entered or remained on someone else’s property;
- The defendant had no consent from the owner;
- The defendant had knowledge that they were not supposed to be on the property. This means that if a person enters someone else’s property unknowingly, they cannot be found guilty of trespass.
Trespass is divided into two categories: Criminal Trespass and Civil Trespass.
Criminal trespass is defined under California Penal Code Section 602. This type of trespass can either be convicted as a felony or misdemeanor based on the different circumstances of the case and the defendant’s criminal history. Criminal trespass is charged as a misdemeanor if the defendant enters another person’s property but does not damage the property or threaten the owner or occupant. If the person damages the property, threatens the owner or occupant, or enters a dwelling structure, then criminal trespass can be charged as a felony.
Civil trespass is a tort under California law that allows a property owner to seek damages from someone who enters their property without permission. The owner of the property must prove that he or she has suffered some damages resulting from the trespass, such as loss of property value due to the trespass. The owner of the property can also seek an injunction that orders the trespasser to stay away from the property. In both cases, the property owner must show that the other person entered or remained on their property without their permission. Note that trespassing laws do not apply to public property, such as parks and sidewalks.
Penalties for Trespass in California
The penalties for trespassing vary depending on the severity of the offense, the punishments range- from a simple ticket to hefty fines and jail time.
Trespass as an Infraction
Those charged with a trespassing infraction can face a fine of up to $250. This applies to both first-time offenders and those who have been previously convicted of trespass. The court may also assess additional fines and court costs. Depending on the circumstances, a judge may also order the offender to serve a maximum of six months in county jail.
In addition to the fines and potential jail time, a conviction for a trespass infraction can also have other consequences. For example, the offender may be required to complete community service or pay restitution for any damages that were done to the property. They may also be prohibited from returning to the property in the future.
Misdemeanor trespassing is charged when someone enters or remains on another person’s property without permission but does not destroy any property. Misdemeanor trespassing is punishable by a maximum of six months in jail, a maximum fine of $1,000, or both.
In California, property owners have the right to post “No Trespassing” signs to keep people from entering their property without permission. If a person disregards the signs and enters the property anyway, they may be charged with criminal trespass. However, a person can still face trespass charges even without the sign.
Felony trespassing occurs when a person enters or remains on another person’s property with the intent of committing a felony or other serious crime. Felony trespassing is a more severe offense and is punishable by three years imprisonment, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both.
For example, if a person enters another person’s property intending to break into their house and steal from them, they could be charged with felony trespassing. On top of the criminal penalties, an individual convicted of felony trespassing may be ordered to pay restitution to the property owner for any losses or damage caused by their actions.
Penalties for Repeat Trespass Offenses
If a person has a prior conviction for trespass, the penalties for a subsequent conviction may be increased. For instance, if a person has been convicted of misdemeanor trespassing and is subsequently charged with a second offense, the penalty may be increased to detainment in jail for one year, a maximum fine of $2,000, or both.
In addition, if a person has been charged with felony trespassing and is subsequently convicted of another offense, the penalty may be increased to four years imprisonment, fines of more than $10,000, or both.
What are the Common Defenses to PC 602 Charges?
If you’ve been charged with a Penal Code 602 violation, there are applicable defenses that can help you face a lesser charge or have your charges dismissed. Here are some of the most common defenses:
Lack of Intent: To be found guilty of a Penal Code 602 violation, the prosecutor must prove that you had the intent of trespassing. If you unknowingly entered another person’s property, you can argue that you lacked the intent to trespass, and the charge against you may be dropped.
Mistake of Fact: If you mistakenly found yourself on another person’s property, you can use the “mistake of fact” defense. That is: if you mistakenly thought that you were on public property rather than private property, you can argue that you had no intent to trespass.
Right of Access: If you had a legal right to access the property, you can use this as a defense. This could include having a key to the property, having express permission from the owner, or having an implied right of access, such as if you’re a tenant in the building.
Necessity: If you had to enter the property to prevent greater harm, you may be able to use the necessity defense. For example, if you had to enter a building to rescue someone from an emergency, you may be able to use this defense.
Government Authority: If you were acting on behalf of the government or a government agency when you entered the property, you may be able to use this as a defense.
How to Avoid Being Charged with Trespass in California
It is essential to understand the laws and regulations to avoid being charged with trespass. Here are some tips to keep in mind.
Know the Law
In California, it is against the law to enter or remain on any property without permission. This includes private, public, and commercial properties. It is also illegal to enter a property that has been marked or posted with signs or barriers that forbid entering.
If you plan to enter a property, make sure you get permission from the owner or another person in charge of the property. If you are unsure if you have permission, it is best to err on the side of caution and assume that you do not have permission and should not enter.
Respect Private Property
It is important to respect private property, even if you have permission to enter. Avoiding damaging, tampering with, or taking anything from the property can help you stay away from trouble. It is also important to respect any barriers that the property owner has put in place to restrict access.
Be Aware of “No Trespassing” Signs
If you see a “no trespassing” sign on a property, respect it and do not enter the property. This should be the case even if the property is public or you think you have permission to enter. It is best to err on the side of caution and assume that the property owner has restricted access to the property and should not be entered.
If Asked If a property owner or other person in charge of the property asks you to leave, you must do so immediately. This should be the case even if you think you have permission to be there. It is best to be respectful and not cause any problems, as this can lead to further legal action.
Can a Trespass Charge be Expunged?
Yes. However, to be eligible for expungement of a trespass charge in California, the defendant must have completed all terms of the sentence, including any probation. Additionally, the defendant must not have any other criminal convictions on their record, and they must not be currently charged with any other crimes.
If a person is eligible for expungement of a trespass charge, they must file a petition for expungement with the court. They must also provide documentation of their successful completion of the sentence and any other relevant information. The court will then review the petition and decide whether or not to grant the expungement. If the petition is approved, the court will seal the criminal record and the trespass charge will be removed from the person's record.
Note that expungement does not erase the conviction from a person's record, but instead changes the legal status of the conviction to "dismissed." This means that the conviction will still appear on a person's record, but it will not be considered a conviction for legal purposes.
Property Crimes Related to Trespass
There are offenses under California law that are often charged with or along with trespass. These offenses include:
California PC Section 601 PC outlines the offense of aggravated trespass, which is a more serious form of criminal trespass. Aggravated trespass is defined as entering another person's property with the intention to annoy, harass, or threaten that person.
For you to be charged with aggravated trespass, the prosecutor must show that you willfully and maliciously entered someone else's property without permission or a right to be there and that you did it with the intent to annoy, harass, or threaten the other person. Aggravated trespass is a specific intent crime, meaning that the prosecution must prove not only that the defendant intended to enter the property, but also that they intended to annoy, harass or threaten the other person.
Aggravated trespass is a wobbler offense in California, meaning that it can be convicted as either a felony or a misdemeanor based on the circumstances of the case and the defendant's criminal record. If charged as a misdemeanor, the defendant can face one-year detainment in jail or a maximum fine of $2,000. If charged as a felony, then the penalties increase to three years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $10,000.
In addition to the criminal penalties, you may be at risk of facing civil penalties for aggravated trespass. The owner of the property may be able to sue the defendant for damages, including the costs of repairing any property damage the defendant caused.
Penal Code 459, Burglary
According to Penal Code 459, burglary is the act of entering a structure or an enclosed area with the intent to commit a felony or theft therein. This crime is different from robbery, as it does not involve a confrontation with a victim. Burglary is considered a “wobbler” offense, meaning that the prosecutor can charge it as either a felony or a misdemeanor.
Under Penal Code 459, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant entered a structure or an enclosed area with the intent to commit a felony or a theft therein. The prosecution must also prove that the defendant had the necessary intent to commit a crime, meaning that the defendant must have had the intention to commit a felony or a theft at the time of entry.
The penalties for burglary vary based on the facts of the case and the severity of the crime. Those convicted of misdemeanor burglary can be sentenced to jail for a maximum of one year and/or pay a maximum fine of $1,000. Felony burglary convictions can result in imprisonment in state prison for three years or a maximum fine of $10,000f. Additionally, the defendant may be required to register as a convicted burglar in California.
In addition to criminal penalties, burglary is also considered a form of trespass. Under California law, a property owner can bring a civil action against a defendant who has committed a burglary on their property. The property owner can seek damages for any harm sustained, including costs associated with repairing any damage caused by the defendant.
Penal Code 594, Vandalism
Vandalism is defined as any malicious act that causes physical damage or defacement of another person’s property without the owner’s consent. This can include graffiti, causing damage to a vehicle, breaking windows, or damaging any type of building or structure.
Vandalism is considered a form of trespassing because the person committing the crime is said to have entered another person’s property without permission or consent. This offense is prosecuted under PC 594 and is considered a wobbler meaning it can be prosecuted as a felony or misdemeanor. However, the severity of the charge depends on the amount of damage caused and the circumstances of the crime.
If the vandalism is a misdemeanor, the offender can face one-year detainment in jail or a maximum fine of $1,000. But, if the vandalism is a felony, the offender can face three years imprisonment or a maximum fine of $10,000. The court may also order restitution to the affected persons, which is a payment to cover the cost of repairing or replacing the damaged property.
In addition to criminal penalties, the offender may face civil penalties as well. The victim of the vandalism can sue the offender for damages, which may include the cost of repairing or replacing the damaged property, as well as any other financial losses incurred as a result of the crime.
Penal Code 451, Arson
Arson is a property crime in California that is defined under Penal Code 451. It is willfully and maliciously setting fire to, burn, or cause to burn, any structure, forest land, property, or inhabited dwelling. Arson is a serious offense and is often treated as an act of malicious mischief.
Arson can also be defined as the intentional and malicious burning of property that is owned by another person or entity. Arson is a crime of intent and is taken seriously by California courts. It is classified as either a first or second-degree felony, based on the different circumstances of the crime. To be convicted of arson, the prosecution must prove that the defendant had the intention of burning the structure or property. Intent may be proven by circumstantial evidence, such as the presence of accelerants or other evidence that suggests the fire was started intentionally.
The penalties for arson, as defined under Penal Code 451, can include up to 8 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Additionally, the court may order restitution to the victim for damages caused by the arson. The court may also impose other penalties, including community service and probation.
Frequently Asked Questions About Trespassing
If you are unfamiliar with California’s trespassing laws, the following are some commonly asked questions and answers that can provide insight into what is and is not legally allowed in the state.
What are the Laws Regarding Trespassing on Private Property in California?
Private property owners have the right to exclude anyone from their property. However, there are some exceptions, such as in the case of public utility workers, who are allowed to enter private property to maintain public utilities. Additionally, states like California, have laws that allow people to enter private property to perform a lawful activity, such as hunting or fishing.
What are the Laws Regarding Trespassing on Public Land in California?
Trespassing on public land is prohibited in California, except in the case of lawful activity, such as camping or hunting. Additionally, some public lands are closed off to the public, such as military bases and national parks.
Are There Any Exceptions to California Trespassing Laws?
Yes, there are several exceptions to California trespassing laws. For example, a person may enter another person’s property without permission in certain circumstances, such as if they need medical attention or shelter, or if they are in immediate danger. Additionally, certain public areas may be exempt from trespassing laws, such as public beaches.
Can you Pursue Trespass as a Plea Bargain?
A plea bargain is an agreement between the defense and the prosecution in a criminal case in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a lighter sentence. Trespass is considered a less serious offense and sometimes, those charged with serious offenses like burglary or assault may be offered the option of pleading guilty to trespass. The plea bargain could be beneficial, as it can help reduce the amount of jail time or fines the defendant faces as well as the social stigma. However, not all forms of trespass can be used as a plea bargain.
Find a Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
If you are facing trespass charges in Pasadena, the Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm can provide you with the legal representation you need. Our experienced criminal defense lawyers have an understanding of California's property crime laws and are ready to help defend you. Call us today at 626-628-0564 if you are facing trespass charges in Pasadena.