Entering another person’s property without permission or a right to do so may appear like a minor act. However, you can face an arrest and conviction for trespass under Penal Code 602 for trespassing on someone’s property. There are various situations in which an offense could occur, some of which may not seem criminal. Trespass ranges from entering or refusing to move away from a property to enter the property to commit a crime.
If you face an arrest for simple trespass and are convicted, you will likely face a six-month jail sentence and substantial court fines. If you, your relative, or friend faces an arrest and charges for trespass, you will need the insight of a competent lawyer. At Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we work hard to provide you with top-notch guidance and legal representation for the best-case outcome. We serve clients who have been charged throughout Los Angeles, California.
Overview of Trespass under Penal Code 602 of California
Trespass is an entry into another person’s property without their permission or to do something. Some of the activities that could cause you to be arrested and charged under CPC 602 include:
- Entering a property with an intent to destroy or occupy it
- Entering a building with an intent to obstruct activities taking place
- Refusing to leave another person’s property even when asked to leave
- Refusing to vacate a public building during the hours when the building is closed
Before you face a conviction for trespass in California, the prosecutor has a burden to establish the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
You Willfully Entered another Person’s Property
A willful act is one that you do deliberately. When proving your liability under PC 602, the prosecutor needs to prove that you entered into a property that did not belong to you. Also, entering a public property to commit an act against the rules of the place could attract criminal charges. Even when you did not intend to commit a crime while on the property, you can still face a conviction for trespass.
You Entered the Property with a Specific Intention
Specific intent is a mental state where you understand your actions. When proving your guilt for trespass in California, the prosecutor has the burden to prove that you understood the nature of your actions.
You Interfered with the Rights of the Property Owner
Interference that is considered substantial in a trespass case does not only need to be property destruction. If you succeeded in interrupting the normal activities on the property, you could be charged with trespass.
You Occupied the Property
California law defines occupying a property as staying on another person’s property without their consent. If you refused to leave when you were asked to, the prosecutor could show you occupied the property.
Penalties for Trespass in California
California trespass charges can be filed as an infraction, a misdemeanor, or a felony depending on the circumstances of the case and your criminal history. In most cases, prosecutors will charge you with misdemeanor trespass. A conviction under PC 602 as a misdemeanor attracts the following legal penalties:
- Summary probation. Sometimes, you could be sentenced to probation instead of jail time. In California, summary probation lasts for a period of one to three years. During this period, you need to adhere to the rules set by the court.
- A six-month jail sentence to be served in county jail. Under circumstances where you cause fear or threaten the property occupants, you could serve a one year sentence.
- Fines not exceeding $1,000
If you willfully enter an enclosed property by a fence with the no trespassing sign, you may be charged with trespass as an infraction. Infractions are not serious and will attract a fine of $75 and $250 for a second offense. It is crucial to understand that a third infraction for trespassing on the same land will be a misdemeanor.
When you enter a property intending to commit a serious crime such as murder or cause serious bodily injury, you may face aggravated trespass charges. Aggravated trespass is a serious offense and is punishable by a jail sentence of up to three years of formal probation. When you are sentenced to probation after a felony, the court sets strict rules that you need to follow while on probation. Some of the common terms of felony probation include:
- Regular check-in with your probation officer
- Avoiding criminal activity
- Payment of fines
Failure to adhere to terms of probation would prompt an arrest and reinstatement of the jail sentence.
Legal Defenses against California Penal Code 602
Trespass charges could be difficult to navigate. However, all hope is not lost. With guidance from a knowledgeable attorney, you can present the following legal defenses to your case:
- You had a right to enter the property. CPC 602 is based on the fact that you entered a property belonging to someone else without their permission. However, if you could prove that you have a right to be there, your actions may not be considered trespass. Your attorney can help you establish whether participating in activities under the labor organization is protected.
- Argue that you did not occupy the alleged property. In California occupying a property is a crime when you stay for a certain period and deprive the owner of enjoyment of their property.
- Claim consent from the property owner. For you to be convicted for trespass, the prosecution is required to establish that you entered a property without permission from the owner. You could successfully fight the charges if the owner initially allowed you to be on their property. However, it is important to understand that you can still be convicted if the owner asked you to leave, and you refused to do so.
- Assert that you did not interfere with activities on the property. It is an offense to enter a property to obstruct the activities within. If your unauthorized entry did not interfere with the premises’ activities, you might use this defense to argue your case.
- Claim a lack of intent to interfere with the property. An intent to interfere with the property or the people in it is necessary for you to face a conviction. Therefore, if your intention is not clear, you can fight trespass charges.
Sealing a Penal Code 602 Records in California
When you face an arrest for trespass in California, the record is public. Potential employers often do a background check on all applicants before considering you for a job position. Therefore, an arrest for a crime as simple as trespass could ruin your chances of securing employment. Also, when every public member accesses your criminal record, you could be stigmatized for arrests that were not even justified.
Fortunately, California law offers individuals who have faced an arrest to seal their criminal records. This makes the records inaccessible unless for limited use by criminal justice agencies. Under CPC 851.87 you have a right to seal your record provided your arrest for trespass did not lead to a conviction. A charge does not lead to a conviction in California under the following circumstances:
- Criminal charges were not filed, and the statute of limitation has expired
- Charges were filed against you, but you were found not guilty
- The charges against you were dismissed
- You faced a conviction which was later reversed
If you faced a conviction and served a sentence, you can alternatively petition the court to expunge the conviction. If you face other criminal charges or your charges were linked to serious crimes such as murder or domestic violence, you may not be eligible to seal your records. It is common for a crime of trespass to be linked with other serious crimes. Therefore, guidance from an attorney is crucial when you want to seal a trespass record.
In order to seal a criminal trespass record, you need to file a petition when the prosecutor can no longer refile the charges.
Trespass Related Offenses
In California, some offenses are closely related to trespass and could be charged alongside or instead of PC 602, including:
You commit an offense of vandalism when you maliciously destroy property belonging to another person. When you enter a property intending to destroy something, you can be charged with vandalism alongside trespass. The elements that are crucial in a vandalism case are:
- You damaged property
- The property was not yours.
- You acted maliciously. You act maliciously by intentionally committing an act that is wrongful to cause injuries.
In a vandalism case, the value of the property you damaged significantly affects the nature of your charges. When you damage property worth $400 or less, you may face misdemeanor charges that attract a one-year jail sentence or fines not exceeding $5,000 for repeat offenders.
For vandalism involving property worth more than $400, the prosecutor will charge you with a felony. A felony conviction for vandalism is punishable by a sentence not exceeding three years and fines of $10,000. Should you or a loved one face vandalism charges in California, it is wise to consult with a criminal defense lawyer.
If one trespasses another person’s property and steals something, the prosecutor might charge the defendant with both trespass and theft. Theft could be petty or grand, depending on the value of the property you stole. A prosecutor has the burden to prove these elements when proving your guilt for theft in California:
- You took property belonging to another person
- You had no permission to take the property
- You took the property intending to deprive the owner of its enjoyment
If you steal property worth less than $950, you will be charged with petty theft which is a misdemeanor and is punished by a jail sentence of one year or a fine of $1,000.
Theft involving property of $950 or more is a wobbler. If you have a criminal history or aggravating circumstances in your case, grand theft is considered a felony. A felony conviction for theft has a potential sentence of a three years jail sentence or felony probation.
Should you face a conviction for trespass and theft in California, you are likely to serve both sentences. Such a scenario could see you spend a significant amount of time in jail and pay hefty fines. Therefore, the insight of a criminal lawyer is crucial.
It is common for a person to trespass while attempting to commit domestic violence. This is often the case when one person acquires a restraining order against a domestic partner. Domestic violence can be in the form of stalking or making criminal threats. If you enter a property intending to commit a crime classified under domestic violence, you may face additional charges.
Depending on the extent of injury or force you used against the alleged victim of domestic violence, you could face serious legal penalties that could be life-changing. Besides the legal penalties that accompany domestic violence charges, you may lose your custody rights as a parent and lose your right to own or operate a firearm.
Trespass as a Plea Bargain
Simple trespass is not such a serious offense. Therefore, your attorney can request the prosecutor to reduce a burglary or domestic violence charge to trespass. When you face a conviction for trespass instead of other serious offenses, you will face lesser penalties and stigma from society.
However, it is crucial to understand that trespass is considered a crime of moral turpitude. Crimes of moral turpitude may affect your immigration status and could prompt deportation or being rendered inadmissible. Before considering this plea, it is crucial to consult a competent lawyer.
Frequently Asked Questions on Trespass in California
Facing charges for trespass can be quite frustrating, especially when you enter a property without knowing that you are forbidden to do so. Contacting a criminal lawyer is crucial should you or your loved one face charges under CPC 602. Some of the frequently asked questions about trespass include:
What is defined as trespassing under California law?
In California, several activities could be categorized as trespass. Suppose you enter a property belonging to another person or fail to move away from a building even after being warned to do so. In that case, you could be arrested and face charges under Penal Code 602 of California.
What can the police do to me when I am found trespassing?
When you enter a property without permission or remain in a building even after the warning, the owner is likely to call the police. Regardless of your intentions of entering the property, the police could arrest you. After the arrest, you may be charged with trespass under the California Penal Code.
Can I be charged with trespassing on public property?
Trespass is a crime you commit by unlawfully entering a property without permission. If you enter a public property and act in a manner that violates the established rules or that is inappropriate, you can face an arrest and charges for trespassing.
Are property owners required to post no trespassing signs in California?
A property owner who has a no trespassing sign may have more legal recourse in a trespassing case. However, landowners are not often required to have this sign to file charges against anyone who remains on their property without permission. If a person is injured on the property, the property owner could be held liable for the injuries.
How severe are trespassing charges?
Trespass ranges from simply entering a property without consent to entering a person’s house to commit a serious crime such as murder. The severity of a trespass case depends on your intention. Simple trespassing can be charged as an infraction or a misdemeanor that attracts a jail of six months or $1,000 in court fines. However, when a prosecutor establishes that you committed a crime of trespass to harm another person, you could face aggravated trespass charges. Under Penal Code 601, aggravated trespass is a felony that attracts serious legal consequences.
Find a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
When you enter a person’s property with no consent, it can lead to legal trouble. Regardless of your intention, an unauthorized entry into someone’s property could attract an arrest for trespass. Trespass carries a possible jail time and hefty fines depending on the circumstances of the crime. The best way to fight this criminal charge is by seeking legal guidance. If you or a loved one is arrested or facing charges under California Penal Code 602 and you are looking to hire a lawyer for guidance and representation; we invite you to contact us Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer.
We will guide you through the case to ensure you understand the nature of your charges. Additionally, we offer legal representation by building a strong defense to help you avoid the consequences that accompany a conviction for trespass. If you are arrested In Los Angeles, CA, you will need us by your side. Contact us today at 310-502-1314 to discuss more details of your case.