Trespassing is a situation where a person enters someone else’s home or office without the owner’s consent or legal right to be there. The offense is a misdemeanor, which results in less severe consequences. However, the penalties will be more strict if it’s realized you committed aggravated trespassing within thirty days after threatening to injure a person physically.

Aggravated trespass is a wobbler charged as a felony or a misdemeanor based on factual circumstances and your criminal history. A conviction results in a criminal record, court fines, and jail time, which is why you need to build a strong defense to fight the charges.

At the Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we can defend you against the charges by claiming you had consented to occupy the property. Our experienced Lawyers can also assert that the property was not fenced and you didn’t interrupt any ongoing activities.

Defining Aggravated Trespass

PC 601 prohibits individuals from threatening to injure someone physically and then gain entry to their property without consent within 30 days after the threats. The offense of aggravated trespass is otherwise called trespass after threatening someone. Aggravating circumstances must be present in your case if you are to face aggravated trespass charges. 

A misdemeanor trespass for a first-time offender doesn’t involve jail time. Instead, the court warns you against repeating the actions. However, suppose it is revealed that you had plans to hurt someone when you trespassed. In that case, you will face a PC 601 violation charge due to the aggravating factors present in the case.

Elements the Prosecutor Must Prove in Aggravated Trespass

For the prosecuting team to prove that you engaged in a violation of PC 601, aggravated trespass, they must establish the following elements:

  1. You Made a Credible Threat to Injure Someone Physically

You can make threats verbally, in writing, or through electronic means. During prosecution, the prosecuting lawyer must prove that you made credible threats. A credible threat is made to make the target reasonably panic for their security and their family. The threats are implied if they come from a combination of statements and actions followed by gradual conduct or behavioral pattern.

Threats alone aren’t enough to prove felony trespass. The prosecuting team must prove that you could have severely hurt the victim by causing severe disfigurement, unconsciousness, fractured bones, or a wound requiring stitching.

  1. The Threats Were Intended to Place the Target in Reasonable Fright

As the defendant, proving that you caused the victim reasonable panic isn’t a piece of cake. The court examines the case’s factual circumstances to establish if the victims of the threats reasonably felt their security or their direct family was threatened. The prosecuting lawyer must provide the judge or jury with:

  • Your conduct after the threats
  • Your verbal messages directed to the victim
  • The prior encounters between you and the target
  • The target’s reaction to the threats
  • Your relationship with the target
  • An eyewitness present at the time of threatening the victim

The jury or judge evaluates the facts and nature of the case to establish whether the threats caused any reasonable panic. If the target didn’t reasonably panic for their life, then your threats must have caused them to panic for their direct family’s security.

Direct or close family refers to the people regularly living in the target’s home, parents, children, or spouse. It also relates to grandchildren, brothers, grandparents, or sisters of the target.

  1. The 30 Days

The prosecution should further demonstrate that after 30 days of the credible threats, you illegally gained entry to the target’s home or office without legal purpose or to make the threats real. Also, they can argue that you entered the target’s office to threaten them further. Even if you only attempted to locate the victim illegally and make your threats real, the court will find you guilty of aggravated trespass.

Note that there is an exemption for felony trespass in a target’s workplace if you are a labor union member. Besides, if you entered your property or one you are entitled to access, that isn’t trespassing.

Penalties for Aggravated Trespass

The prosecutor has the discretion to charge you with a misdemeanor or felony based on the case’s nature because a violation of PC 601 is a wobbler. If convicted of a misdemeanor, the penalties include:

  • Informal probation
  • As much as 12 months incarceration in a county jail
  • Court fines not exceeding $2,000

When the prosecutor decides to charge you with a felony, the penalties of a conviction include:

  • Formal probation
  • No more than thirty-six months jail custody
  • A fine of no more than $10,000

Immigration Consequences of an Aggravated Trespass Conviction

When convicted of aggravated trespass, the above penalties are not the only consequences you experience. If you are an alien, immigration laws might deem you deportable or inadmissible when applying to enter U.S. borders. The offense that can result in immigration consequences are:

  • Moral turpitude crimes
  • Domestic violence crimes
  • Gun crimes
  • Drug crimes
  • Aggravated felonies

Although aggravated trespass is not listed among the crimes with immigration consequences, it may rise to the standard of aggravated felonies based on the case’s factual circumstances. When this happens, you face detrimental immigration consequences.

Expunction of an Aggravated Trespass Offense

A sentence for a PC 601 violation can result in a criminal record, which can cause severe ramifications on your future. So, it’s essential to erase the history through an expungement. However, to qualify for the process, you must complete the terms and conditions of probation.

The procedure releases you from all the consequences and disabilities of being sentenced for a PC 601 violation.

With an expunged criminal record, you don’t need to disclose to your employer that you have been previously convicted of a crime. Further, your history won’t be visible to the public, which might be advantageous when leasing an apartment or during college admission.

The rule of thumb under PC 1203.4 is that a felony or misdemeanor criminal record can be expunged if you complete probation, are not presently charged with a crime, on probation, or serving a sentence for another offense.

It means that if you have completed probation as per the terms and conditions or completed your jail sentence as provided, then you are eligible for an expunction. You should speak to an expungement lawyer to commence the process of clearing your criminal history.

Aggravatd Trespass Sentence and Gun Rights

In the event you end up with a sentence for a PC 601 violation, the conviction will affect your gun rights. However, whether the verdict will affect these rights depends on the preferred charge against you. A misdemeanor doesn’t result in the loss of gun rights. However, a felony conviction for aggravated trespass crime may result in loss of gun ownership or possession rights.

Generally, individuals prohibited from possessing or owning guns in Los Angeles, CA, are:

  • Felons
  • Controlled substance addicts
  • Persons with at least two convictions for brandishing a weapon as per PC 417
  • Individuals 18 years or younger. Note that persons 21 years or younger but above 18 can purchase or own a firearm.
  • Persons with mental conditions
  • Individuals with misdemeanor offense convictions for corporal injury on a spouse

As stated earlier, aggravated trespass can be filed as a felony or misdemeanor. Your criminal record and facts and circumstances of the case determine the kind of charges brought against you. If the prosecutor prefers felony PC 601 violation charges and you end up being sentenced, then it means you could relinquish your gun rights.

Possible Defenses for PC 601 Aggravated Trespass

With the right to legal representation, your PC 601 violation case is not entirely hopeless. An experienced defense lawyer can make all the difference in your case and increase the possibility of a favorable outcome. Your legal defense team will evaluate the opposing side’s evidence and use the elements to your advantage. The defenses your legal team might mount to contest the charges are:

The Alleged Threats Were Not Credible

Recall that you can only be alleged to have violated PC 601 if the prosecutor demonstrates that your threats towards the target were credible and caused the victim fright for their safety or that of the direct family. Therefore, if you argue that the claims you made were not reasonable or severe, the court will find you innocent or lower the charges. However, you will need to present factual circumstances to establish that the threats were made jokingly. Hence you didn’t make the victim feel their security is threatened.

The Threats Made Were Not Intended to Cause Fear for Physical Harm

In these cases, the prosecutor must show the court that you intended to make the threats real when you accessed the target’s property or workplace unlawfully. Your lawyer can take advantage of this element by asserting that you had no requisite intentions to actualize your threats. You can further claim that when you accessed the target’s estate, property, or workplace, you wanted to apologize for the previous threats and not make your threats real.

You Didn’t Notice You Entered the Targets Property or Place of Work

You can argue that you accidentally entered the victim’s office or property, or you weren’t aware the victim lived or worked there. When you make threats to someone today, and after three weeks, you run into them at work or their property, and you weren’t aware it’s their work station, you can argue you did so by accident, or you didn’t understand you had gained access to home or workplace.

Related Offenses

It’s essential to speak to your defense lawyer when faced with an allegation of aggravated trespass. The reason being, the prosecutor, might charge you with additional crimes related to the PC 601 violation. The offenses are:

  1. Burglary, PC 459

As per PC 459, it is a crime to enter a target’s property with plans to commit a felony or petty theft therein. You will face burglary charges by merely entering a structure without even completing your intended felony or petty theft. The offense relates to a PC 601 violation when you enter someone’s property with the intent to make real the threats you had made to the person within 30 days.

In a scenario like this, the prosecutor might charge you with both offenses. However, they must settle for one preferable charge or one with substantial evidence in most cases.

Burglary has two categories. The 1st degree is the one that involves entering residential properties, while the 2nd degree involves entering commercial buildings. When apprehended for second-degree burglary, the offense is a wobbler and might be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony. If found guilty of a misdemeanor, you will face up to 12 months in county jail. On the other hand, a felony conviction will result in no more than 36 months of jail custody.

When charged with residential or 1st-degree burglary, a conviction might result in prison incarceration for up to 48 months.

  1. Trespass Under PC 602

The crime of trespass under PC 602 occurs when you unlawfully enter or remain in another person’s home or workplace. A violation of this statute occurs when:

  • You gain access to the victim’s property to disrupt the normal flow of activities.
  • You unlawfully occupy the victim’s property.
  • You access another individual’s property to cause damage.
  • You fail to leave someone’s property after they have requested you to leave.
  • You fail to leave the public property when it’s closed after a person working at the place asks you to leave.

During the prosecution, the prosecuting team must demonstrate that:

  • You deliberately accessed another individual’s residence without their consent.
  • Your intentions at the time of gaining access were to interrupt regular activities.
  • You were successful in interrupting regular activities.

If all these elements are proved beyond reasonable certainty, the judge or jury will find you guilty. Regular trespass is charged as either an infraction or misdemeanor. A conviction for an infraction will result in a small fine with no jail time, while a misdemeanor will result in jail custody not exceeding six months or a one thousand dollar court fine.

Although a PC 602 violation carries lighter penalties, you should avoid a conviction by all means. Your defense lawyer can assert that because you had the owner’s consent, then you weren’t trespassing.

Alternatively, if you’re alleged to have refused to leave or occupy someone’s property after they have requested you to go, you can claim you didn’t occupy the property. If you can demonstrate that your stay was brief or short and didn’t interrupt property use or enjoyment, you are innocent.

You can also assert that you didn’t intend to interrupt the property or be authorized to access the property because you’re a labor union member.

Note that trespass and aggravated trespass are the same crimes. The only distinction is that PC 601 has aggravating circumstances, which were stated earlier in this article.

  1. Criminal Threats

Criminal threats are outlined as per PC 422 as threatening to kill or physically injure someone and that:

  • A person enters a state of panic for their safety as well as that of their direct family.
  • The threat is unequivocal and definite.
  • You made the threat electronically, via writing or verbal message.

When the prosecuting side decides to charge you with a misdemeanor, a conviction will attract court fines not exceeding $1,000 or a maximum of one year in county jail.

For a felony conviction, the punishment includes court fines of no more than $10,000 or a prison sentence of up to forty-eight months.

  1. Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is outlined as per PC 273.5 as causing severe physical harm or corporal injury to a spouse or former spouse. The offense is commonly charged alongside PC 601 and is a wobbler. When convicted of a misdemeanor, the consequences include:

  • Misdemeanor probation
  • Up to one-year jail incarceration
  • A protective order prohibiting you from reaching out to the victim for a maximum of 120 months

A felony conviction, on the other end, will result in:

  • Formal probation
  • Up to forty-eight months in prison
  • A restrictive order preventing you from reaching out to the victim
  1. Stalking, PC 646.9

Stalking is defined under PC 646.9 as harassing or intimidating an individual, to the extent they begin reasonably panicking for their security and that of the direct family. If you’re accused of aggravated trespass, the prosecutor could file an additional charge of stalking. A conviction for a misdemeanor PC 646.9 carries the following consequences:

  • Informal probation
  • As much as one year in jail custody
  • No more than $1,000 court fines
  • Possible state-run mental condition program
  • A protective order barring contact with the victim

 A felony PC 646.9 conviction results in:

  • Formal probation
  • As much as five years of incarceration
  • At least $1,000 fines
  • A restraining order forbidding contact with your target
  • Sex offender registration

Speak to a Property Crimes Lawyer Near Me

Aggravated trespassing is a multi-faceted and sophisticated area that requires an experienced lawyer by your side. Fortunately, the Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer has the experience necessary to fight the charges effectively. Call us today at 310-502-1314 for a case evaluation and legal representation.