You probably have seen a "no trespassing" sign in a private property. Well, these signs have a legal implication to anyone who goes contrary to them. One of the crimes associated with trespassing is aggravated trespass. This is a more serious type of trespass than mere trespassing since it involves threatening or physically harming another person. You should seek the help of a professional attorney once you are arrested and charged for aggravated trespass. Contact us at California Criminal Lawyer Group for an in-depth review of your case and the best legal representation. 

Legal Definition of Aggravated Trespass in California

Everything to do with aggravated trespass in California is defined under Penal Code 601. Under this statute, aggravated trespass is defined as threatening to physically injure someone and enter that person's workplace or home without consent and to commit the threat.

When a prosecutor is prosecuting the alleged offender for aggravated trespass, they must prove three aspects. These aspects are referred to as the elements of the crime, and are as follows:

  • You made a credible threat to injure another person seriously
  • You made the threats to place the other person in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of an immediate family member, and
  • You either unlawfully entered the person's residence or workplace intending to carry out the threat

Several questions arise from the above-stated elements of the crime. It is essential to learn more about them to have a clear understanding of aggravated trespass in California. These questions or terms are as follows.

Credible Threat

Under this statute, a credible threat is one that causes the other person to reasonably fear for his or her safety or his or her immediate family's safety. It also defines a threat that the maker can carry out or a pattern of conduct or statements that appear to elicit an action from the maker. The threat can be made in writing, electronically, or orally.

Please note, the attorney does not necessarily need to prove that you threatened the plaintiff "willfully" to prosecute you for aggravated trespass.

Serious Bodily Injury

Under trespass laws, serious bodily injury means seriously impairing another person or putting him or her in a life-threatening physical condition. Such injuries include:

  • Bone fracture
  • Concussion
  • Protracted or impairment of a body organ
  • Serious disfigurement
  • A severe wound that requires extensive suturing
  • Loss of consciousness

Placing the Recipient in Reasonable Fear

For the court to prove that the recipient of the threat was placed in reasonable fear, it will examine the circumstances surrounding the case. In that case, they will consider using the following:

  • The accuser's conduct
  • The defendant's message
  • The victim's reaction to the threat
  • The relationship between the defendant and the plaintiff
  • Whether there were witnesses while the plaintiff was being threatened

Definition of Immediate Family Member

This statute also includes immediate family members as possible recipients of the threats. A close family member can consist of:

  • Spouse, child, or parent
  • Grandchildren, brother, sister, and grandparents
  • People who live in your home regularly

Residence or Workplace

Under this statute, aggravated trespassing is considered if someone willfully enters another person's residence or workplace. The legal definition of residence is domicile or permanent dwelling where a person intends to return despite having a temporary abode elsewhere or monetary absence. You can have several transitory homes, but only one place is deemed to be your legal residence.

A workplace is a location where someone works for an employer or as his or her business. These places range from a large office building to a factory. You could be accused of aggravated trespassing if you intended to commission a threat in another person's workplace.

Please note, you cannot be accused under this statute if you entered into your property, residence, or workplace, even though you furthered the threat upon entry into your premises.

Thirty-days Duration

The prosecutor must establish that you accessed the plaintiff's residence or workplace within thirty-days to commit your threat. Besides entry into the plaintiff's workplace or home, you must have attempted to locate the accuser and commit the threat.

Comparison Between Misdemeanor and Aggravated Trespass

There is a close relationship between a misdemeanor and aggravated trespass. Both types of offenses deal with unlawfully entering another person's property, but there is a difference with the trespasser's action once he enters the property.

With misdemeanor trespass, the trespasser intends to interfere with the owner's property rights. In aggravated trespass, the intention is to commission a threat that the offender had made on the owner or occupant.

Everything to do with misdemeanor trespass is defined under Penal Code 602. It also deals with fact-specific aspects such as:

  • Digging into city lots
  • Entering farm areas where animals are reared
  • Cutting down woods and carrying away the wood
  • Entering into an oyster farm

The definition of "interfering with another person's rights" includes interfering with regular activity in a person's private property or business premises. For instance, if an unsatisfied customer successfully obstructs customers from entering a restaurant, this would be considered a misdemeanor trespass. Suppose the unsatisfied customer fails to obstruct the customers from entering the restaurant, he could not be accused of misdemeanor trespass.

Penalties for Aggravated Trespass in California

Violation for Penal Code 601 is a wobbler offense in California. Therefore, you can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.

A misdemeanor charge is punishable by:

  • Summary or misdemeanor probation
  • A maximum of one year in county jail
  • A fine of up to $2,000

If you are charged as a felony, the potential penalties include

  • Formal or felony probation
  • A maximum county prison sentence of three years
  • A maximum fine of $10,000

Immigration Consequences

A conviction under Penal Code 601 can have an adverse result on your immigration. Under the United States Immigration laws, some California criminal convictions can lead to deportation or being marked inadmissible. These crimes include crimes of moral turpitude, firearm offenses, domestic violence crimes, aggravated felonies, and drug-related offenses.

Sometimes aggravated trespass is charged as an aggravated felony. Therefore, it can make a non-citizen deported or marked as inadmissible.

Conditions for Summary and Formal Probation

If the judge or jury imposes a summary or formal probation on you, they will impose certain conditions on you and expect you to obey. Probation allows an offender to serve a sentence outside the jail or prison but should conform to specific terms that have been set forth by the jury or judge.

The judge must decide on conditions that are fitting and proper to ensure that justice is served to the accused while imposing misdemeanor probation conditions. The terms should also be logically and reasonably related to the offense. In a misdemeanor sentence, the judge or jury might impose the following conditions:

  • Restitution of the defendant if there were any losses incurred due to the trespass
  • Completion of a treatment program like anger management
  • Completion of Caltrans roadside work or community service
  • Showing up to all court dates
  • Avoid violating any laws and further arrest by the police

The conditions imposed on an accused in felony probation is not different from probation imposed in misdemeanor probation. These conditions are as follows:

  • Payment of court costs
  • Completion of a treatment program
  • Performance of community service
  • Payment of restitution
  • The requirement to meet with the probation officer
  • An agreement not to violate any laws

Failure to adhere to any of the above-stated conditions might subject you to a warning and reinstatement of the same terms, force the court to modify the conditions, impose harsher conditions, or revoke the terms and reinstate your county jail time. 

Possibility of Expungement in Your Aggravated Trespass Charges

Anyone convicted of aggravated trespass is entitled to expungement if he or she completes the probation. According to Penal Code 1203.4, expungement is a release of an individual from a conviction's penalties and disabilities.

One of the benefits that arise from an expungement of a conviction is the dismissal of the need to disclose your previous criminal charges while applying for employment. Penal Code 1203.4 authorizes expungement for misdemeanors or felonies if the offender completes probation and does not have a current criminal charge, is serving a sentence for a crime, or on probation.

The Impact of Aggravated Trespass Conviction on Your Gun Rights

If you are convicted for felony trespass, there might be adverse effects on your gun rights. Under California laws, people with felony convictions can be prohibited from acquiring or possessing a gun.  Therefore, if you are convicted of a felony for aggravated trespass, you can end up losing your rights to have or own a gun. 

Legal Defenses for Aggravated Trespass Charges

Once you have hired an attorney, you expect them to adopt several legal defenses to win your case or reduce it to a less severe charge. A professional attorney should adopt legal arguments that are reasonably logical and challenge the crime’s above-stated elements. Here are a few legal defenses that your attorney can use.

False Accusations

False accusation is a common type of legal defense that can be used to challenge any allegations. False accusations usually occur when the defendant mistook the perpetrator with another person due to similarity in appearance or presence in a particular location. This is referred to as an alibi and can be a suitable defense.

When you consider this defense in your case, you should provide relevant evidence that demonstrates that you were mistaken to be the actual perpetrator. This evidence includes photos and videos or your whereabouts while the crime was taking place, your phone records, receipts, and video footage of your actual location. You can also provide witnesses to prove your innocence.

Lack of Credible Threat

A prosecutor cannot charge you of aggravated trespass unless you make a credible threat to the plaintiff. Therefore, if the threat is not credible, then the court could dismiss the allegation. For instance, perhaps you threatened the plaintiff in a jokingly manner and probably took the matter seriously hence the allegations. Your case could be dismissed in this kind of situation if you did not actualize the threat since it was a joke.

Lack of Intent to Carry Out the Threat

Under this statute, a prosecutor should prove that you had the intention to threaten someone and carry out the threat to be prosecuted under this statute. Therefore, if you did not carry out the threat, you cannot be eligible for aggravated trespass charges. For instance, you might have threatened the plaintiff, realize that you made a mistake, and went to his or her workplace to apologize. However, the plaintiff mistook your attempts to apologize and accuses you of aggravated trespass.

You had no intention to carry out the threat in this situation but apologize to the plaintiff. Therefore, this does not make you eligible for aggravated trespass charges but can attract a less severe charge, like trespass, as an infraction. 

Claim that the Situation was Completely Accidental

Everything related to your criminal charges can be entirely accidental, but have them mistaken to be real. For instance, if you jokingly threaten a person out of anger, this does not mean that you intend to carry out the threat. Also, the fact that you made a threat to a person and accidentally walks into his or her residence or premises does not mean that you intended to carry out the threat.

Therefore, if you can prove to the court that everything was accidental and you had no intent whatsoever, the court could dismiss your case.

However, depending on the nature of the case, the charges can be reduced to less severe accusations like misdemeanor or infraction trespass, depending on what seems fit.

Right to The Property

Sometimes you can be accused of aggravated trespass, whereas the property in question is yours. This situation is common when there is an existing legal challenge about property ownership or a legal mandate over your entry to the property. For instance, a construction worker's union representative has the legal authority to enter premises to inspect its safety condition.

Therefore, if you were accused while accomplishing your legal mandate, this should not make you eligible for aggravated trespass charges. However, this does not justify your criminal conduct of threatening the property owner or occupant unless you own the property, which can have your case dismissed.

Police Misconduct

Rogue police usually engage in several types of misconduct. These misconducts include failure to avail an attorney once you request one, unwarranted arrest, and forcible interrogation. Being a victim of police misconduct does not mean that you can have your case dismissed. This can only happen if the evidence collected out of the misconduct is not accepted in court.

Lack of Enough Evidence

Finally, there are times that the prosecution team adapts inadequate evidence and presents it to court while prosecuting an offender. Lack of enough evidence is common when the prosecutor adopts circumstantial evidence and tries to use it to charge a person for a particular crime.

In most cases, circumstantial evidence does not highlight a crime's real facts and is not usually credible enough to successfully prosecute offenders.  Therefore, your attorney should look at this kind of evidence and look for loopholes that would help dismiss your case or reduce your sentence.

Entrapment of the Defendant

You can rely on entrapment as your defense if you can prove that you committed the alleged offense out of harassment, threats, coercion from the police, and other means to entrap a defendant. You need to provide relevant evidence showing that you are trapped to threaten a particular property owner and carry out the threat to use this defense successfully.

Crimes Related to Aggravated Trespass in California

Several crimes are related to aggravated trespass in one way or another. These crimes either share the same elements, are prosecuted along with aggravated trespass, or are charged instead of Penal Code 601. Here are the common crimes that are related to aggravated trespass in California. 

California Penal Code 602: Trespass

Criminal trespass is prohibited under Penal Code 602 in California. Under this statute, a person commits this crime by entering or remaining on someone else's property and does without the permission or the right to do so.

In most cases, California trespass is a misdemeanor and carries a potential punishment such as:

  • A maximum fine of 6 months in county jail
  • A maximum fine of $1,000

California Penal Code 602.8: Trespass as an Infraction

One simple and common form of California trespass is often charged as an infraction. You commit a trespass as an infraction if you entered someone else's land without permission and that land had a "no trespass" sign within an interval of not less than three miles or a mile.

The penalties for trespass as an infraction include:

  • A fine of $75 for a first offense
  • A fine of $250 for a second offense on the same property

If you commit a third offense on the same property, you will be charged with a misdemeanor trespass, which subjects you to punishment under Penal Code 602.

California Penal Code 459: Burglary

California Penal Code 459 is the statute that makes burglary a California crime. Under this statute, a burglary occurs when a person enters a residential or commercial building intending to steal or commit a felony once inside.

You can be accused of burglary once you enter a building or a structure with criminal intent, even if the intended theft or felony did not actualize.

California burglary is divided into a first-degree or second-degree burglary. A first-degree burglary occurs when one enters a residence while a second-degree offense occurs when a person enters a store or a business.

A first-degree felony is a California felony, and the potential punishment includes a state prison sentence for 2,4 or 6 years.

Second-degree burglary is a wobbler. A felony carries a potential sentence that includes 16 months, 2, or 3 years in county jail, while a misdemeanor carries a possible county jail sentence for a maximum of one year.

California Penal Code 422: Criminal Threats

Everything to do with criminal threats in California is defined under Penal Code 422. Under this statute, "criminal threat" is threatening to harm or kill someone and:

  • The threat is credible
  • You made the recipient fearful of his or her safety or the safety of an immediate family member
  • You communicated the threat in writing, electronically, or verbally

In California, a criminal threat is a wobbler. If you are convicted with a misdemeanor, you face a fine of up to $1,000. Consequently, a felony conviction attracts a state prison term of up to 3 years and a fine of up to $10,000. If you used a dangerous weapon to communicate your threat, you could face an additional one-year prison sentence.

Finally, if you make the threats on several occasions, against several people, or pursue different objectives, you could face the above-stated penalties for every threat you make.

California Penal Code 594: Vandalism

Vandalism in California is defined under Penal Code 594. Under this statute, vandalism is defined as destroying, defacing, or damaging another person's property. You can be prosecuted with aggravated trespass and vandalism if you vandalize someone else's property while commissioning a threat.

The kind of penalties that result from vandalism depends on the value of the damaged property. If the property is worth less than $400, the crime becomes a misdemeanor, but it becomes a wobbler for a property worth more than $400.

Find a Criminal Attorney Law Firm Near Me

Being charged with aggravated trespass does not automatically lead to a sentence. You have different options to consider rather than wait for a verdict for the alleged crime. At the California Criminal Lawyer Group, we understand the worries of facing criminal charges like aggravated trespass. That's why our lawyers are willing to use their extensive knowledge of California laws to achieve the best results possible in your case. For more information, call us at 408-622-0204 for a free consultation.