Criminal Trespassing Laws in California – Penal Code 601 and 602
The misdemeanor crime of “trespassing” is described under California Penal Code Section 602. In basic terms, this law prohibits someone from entering or remaining on someone else’s property without permission.
There are a wide range of situations where criminal trespassing could occur. For instance, you could be a “trespasser” if you enter a restaurant with the intent to create a disturbance and drive away customers.
In California, an owner conducts their daily routine business with an implied consent that customers can enter their business and engage in normal transactions – but this doesn’t apply for people who come to their business to obstruct their normal operation.
Penal Code 602 trespassing law could also apply in situations where you fail to leave a motel room after refusing to pay for it – or you fail to leave any public facility after closing.
PC 602 covers a variety of behaviors that are a direct intent to interfere with daily business. If you are asked to leave, but continue to interfere, you could be charged with trespassing, even though there was an implied consent you could enter the business. In simple terms, the consent was withdrawn and no longer existed.
The felony crime of “aggravated trespassing” is defined under California Penal Code Section 601. This more serious charge occurs when you make a credible threat to someone to cause serious bodily injury, with an intent to make them fear for their safety – and within 30 days after the threat – you enter their property or business to carry it out.
To give our readers a better understanding of California’s misdemeanor and felony trespassing charges, our criminal defense lawyers are providing an overview below.
Definition of Trespassing – Penal Code 602
Under California Penal Code Section 602, it describes a variety of behaviors that could be considered a trespassing crime. The most common situations where you could face Penal Code 602 misdemeanor charges include:
- You enter a property without consent
- You refuse to leave their private property after being asked
- You enter a property with an intent to interfere with business
- You enter a property with intent to damage it
- You refuse to leave a hotel and fail to pay
- You enter a restricted or closed public land
In order to be convicted of criminal trespassing, the prosecutor has to be able to prove all the elements of the crime. Penal Code 602 is covered by two separate California Criminal Jury Instructions. CALCRIM 2930 deals with trespassing “to interfere with business.” CALCRIM 2931 deals with “unlawfully occupying property.” Both have similar factors that have to be proven, including:
- You willfully entered or remained on somebody’s property or land
- You had intent to interfere with business, obstruct or damage property
- You actually interfered or obstructed somebody’s rights
- You didn’t have permission or consent from the owner
In most cases, trespassing under Penal Code 602 is misdemeanor crime. If convicted, the penalties include up to 6 months in a county jail, and a fine of up to $1,000.
Definition of Aggravated Trespassing – Penal Code 601
Under California Penal Code Section 601, aggravated trespassing – commonly called “felony trespass” – is defined as follows:
Any person is guilty of trespass who makes a credible threat to cause serious bodily injury to another person, with intent to place them in reasonable fear their own safety or their family, and within 30 days of the threat, unlawfully enters their residence, property, or workplace with an intent to carry it out.
The “credible threat” in the definition above can be made verbally, in writing, or using electronic communication (email, text, etc.). It could also be “implied” by showing a pattern of conduct. Penal Code 601, aggravated trespassing, could be charged as a felony offense that carries harsh consequences.
PC 601 aggravated trespass charges in Los Angeles County are sometimes filed in connection with domestic violence or stalking cases.
In order to secure a conviction for PC 601 aggravated trespassing charges, the prosecutor must be able to prove – beyond reasonable doubt – all the elements of the crime listed under CALCRIM 2929 Jury Instructions.
These include the critical factors that you threatened somebody of serious injury to place them in fear of their safety, and within 30 days, you entered their property to carry out the threat.
Penal Code 601, aggravated trespassing, is a “wobbler,” meaning the prosecutor can file the charges as either a misdemeanor or felony crime. They will normally make this decision depending on the circumstances on the case, along with your prior criminal record.
If convicted of felony trespassing, you will be facing 16 months to 3 years in county jail, a $10,000 fine, and formal felony probation.
Common defenses for felony trespassing charges include making an argument your alleged threat was not credible, you had no intent to cause fear or actually carry out the threat when you entered the victim’s property or workplace.
Related California Offenses for Trespassing – Penal Code 602
Fighting Criminal Trespassing Charges in Los Angeles
An experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney at Cron, Israels & Stark can use a wide range of defense strategies on your behalf to obtain the best possible outcome. The most common defenses against trespassing charges include:
Lack of Intent
We might be able to make a reasonable argument that you didn’t have an intent to interfere, or your actions weren’t willful. If you go back to the legal definition, it includes the factor that you specifically intended to interfere with a business or enter their property unlawfully. If a prosecutor can’t prove this beyond a reasonable, you have a good chance at avoiding a conviction for criminal trespassing.
We might be able to argue that you had permission to be on the property, or had a reasonable belief you were authorized to be there. If we can cast some doubt on the factor your entered without consent, you could have a chance at avoiding a criminal trespassing conviction.
No Interference with Business Activity
If you have been charged with PC 601 criminal trespassing for allegedly intentionally interfering or obstructing business activity, it must be proven you actually interfered or obstructed their business. We might be able to make an argument you didn’t interfere with normal business activity and avoid a criminal trespassing conviction.
If you are facing charges of misdemeanor trespassing under Penal Code 601, or aggravated trespassing charges under Penal Code 601, you should consult with our Los Angeles criminal defense law firm to review your case and legal options.
We have a track record of success and will work to achieve a favorable outcome. We serve clients throughout the greater Los Angeles area, including the San Fernando Valley. Each trespassing case is unique and will require a close review of all the details. Call us for a free case evaluation.
Cron, Israels & Stark
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Los Angeles, CA 90025