If you enter another person’s property without a right to or their consent or stay there, you can face trespass charges according to PEN 602. If the trespass was accidental and you had no intention of harming or interfering with the owner’s property, you are innocent of the crime. Trespassing crime can be charged as an infraction or a felony. This will depend on why you were at the property and if you caused any damage. Get in touch with us at the California Criminal Lawyer Group to help you build a proper defense strategy for your charges.
Defining Trespass According to PEN 602
You can face trespassing charges when you do certain things knowing or without knowing that they are offenses. Some situations that can result in you getting charges for this crime include:
- If you come across a private property with a picnic table during a hike and decide to rest and use the table, you can face trespass charges. You have entered the property willingly to use a table that does not belong to you without consent. However, although this amounts to trespass if you caused no harm and immediately after your meal you leave, you are unlikely to get prosecuted for the offense. If you cause damage to the fence if you got into the property or the picnic table, the property owner can accuse you of trespass.
- Sometimes you may feel you have a moral obligation to protest against certain practices, resulting in these charges. For instance, a particular store has labor practices that are unacceptable to you. You decide to go to their private parking lot and protest against their practices. If you hold a placard and do not interfere with clients entering the store, you will not be charged with trespassing. However, if you block customers or loudly bother them interfering with the store’s operations, trespassing charges can be leveled against you.
- You were driving and saw undeveloped land suitable for camping and decided to stop your car. The attraction is so strong that you decide to camp for a few days without the owner’s permission. Even when you cause no harm, you can face trespassing charges for your actions.
The law describes more than thirty situations or activities that can be categorized as trespass. In summary, these activities constitute:
- Getting into another person’s property intending to damage their property
- Entering into someone’s property intending to cause a disturbance obstructs or interferes with what goes on in the premises or property
- Getting and staying or occupying someone’s property without consent, for instance, finding a garage door open and deciding to stay there with your sleeping bag without authority from the owner.
- And you refuse to leave the property or premises even after you are asked to go.
Other particular and even more exciting kinds of trespass punished in include engaging in things like:
- Picking dirt, stones or soil from someone’s property or land without their consent
- Taking shellfish or oysters found in another person’s land without their permission
- Declining to be screened at the courthouse or airport
Because of these, it becomes complicated to define trespass. However, there are specific elements to the offense that a prosecutor must determine before getting a conviction. If you face trespass charges, the prosecution must determine the following elements or aspects of the crime:
- You entered another person’s property willfully.
- You intended to disrupt the rights of the property owner and
- You did disrupt with their property rights either by causing damage or interfering and obstructing their business
There are terms used to define this offense and must be clearly understood. These include:
This term, when defining trespass means purposely or deliberately. When you do something willfully, it does not mean you had the intention of breaking the law. However, it means that you had planned to do what you did at the property or premises belonging to another.
This defines a particular state of mine. When your actions have a specific intention, you plan on your actions and plan explicitly for your deeds’ outcome. For instance, a homeless woman called Mary has always admired and wished she could eat from a particular restaurant. After begging on the streets, she finally has enough money to have her favorite sandwich at her favorite restaurant. She goes to the eatery and orders for the sandwich to eat there. Unfortunately, other patrons are disturbed by her appearance and smell that they leave. In such a case, Mary cannot face trespass charges because her intention was not to disrupt the restaurant’s business.
If your actions were similar to the example above, you are innocent of trespassing offense.
Damaging Property or Business Rights
The typical two types of trespass charges involve damaging another person’s property or disrupting the business carried out there. When you get charged with trespass, the prosecutor must prove that you actually damaged the property or something found there or interfered with activities.
If your intention when entering the property was to cause harm or interfere with activities there and you succeed, then you are guilty of trespass.
For instance, you are an activist agitating for the rights of farmworkers. You attend a local fair to issue leaflets to protest the unfair treatment or working conditions for the farmworkers. In carrying out your activities, you position yourself in front of a farm machine as you try to give visitors your leaflets. However, you do not interfere with anyone interested in viewing the machine, or the visitors can go round you and still view the equipment.
Unfortunately, you get arrested after you start issuing the leaflets. If the complainant accuses you of trespass, you will not be found guilty of the offense. Your intention may have been disrupting the business operations, but you never did or succeeded. This is evidenced by the fact that those who wanted to view the machines were able to.
However, if on the other hand, you are petitioning for a particular thing and you require signatures, where you go to collect them matters. For instance, you position yourself at a private store’s parking lot without consent from the store owner to get your signatures. Unfortunately, your position interferes with visitors using the tram to take them out, and the tram must be repositioned.
In this case, you will be found guilty of the trespass offense because you interfered with the tram’s normal operations.
A common form of trespass is when someone occupies another person’s property or premises without their permission. The law defines occupy as when a person stays at a particular location continuously for an extended period.
For instance, you and your friends decide you are going on an adventure. You come across a big private ranch and decide on an overnight camp there. In the morning, you plan to leave and are found by the owner who accuses you of trespass. In such a case, you may not be found guilty of the offense because your stay was not extended, but was for a single night.
On the other hand, if you thought you might not be found because the range is extensive, you and your friends may decide to build a cabin and stay for a few months. Unfortunately, you are discovered and charged with trespass. Here, you are guilty of the offense because you occupied another person’s property for an extended period without their consent.
Penalties for PEN 602 – Trespass
As earlier stated, a trespass offense can be prosecuted as an infraction, a misdemeanor or a felony, but on rare occasions.
When charged with an infraction for trespass according to PEN 602.8, it means the offense was simple with the following elements:
- You willingly entered another person’s land without their permission
- The land was fenced or had several signs prohibiting trespassing placed at specific intervals of not less than three for every mile
In this case, you will face infraction charges for the offense, and the penalties for a guilty verdict include:
- Paying a fine of $75 if it is the first time you have committed the offense or
- $250 if you repeat the offense a second time in the same property.
However, if you repeat the offense a third time in the same property, you will face misdemeanor charges on trespass.
Misdemeanor Trespass Penalties
Most trespass offenses are however prosecuted as misdemeanors with the likely penalties if you are found guilty being:
- Getting sentenced to summary or misdemeanor probation
- Earning a prison sentence of not more than six months
- Getting charged a fine of $1,000 or less. This is usually instead of the county jail sentence or in addition to it.
However, some situations in a misdemeanor trespass case can carry a longer county jail time of a year. For instance, your wife has run away to find refuge in a shelter caring for battered women. You find out about this, and you go there demanding that she leaves and comes with you. However, the manager of the shelter requests you to leave, and you refuse. Because you have no permission to be there, a guilty verdict on this offense can earn you a longer county jail time for a year.
Felony Trespass Penalties
As earlier stated, most trespass offenses are misdemeanor offenses. However, when there are aggravating factors, the offense becomes a felony. The trespass offense becomes a felony if you:
- Issue threats to another person. These threats mention that you plan to severely injure the person, causing them to be afraid of their wellbeing and family, and
- In thirty days after issuing the threat, you go to the person’s home, workplace, or other property planning to execute your threat
This offense is known as aggravated trespass and is a wobbler in the state of California. The circumstances leading to the incidence and your criminal background determine how the case is prosecuted.
If the prosecutor charges you with a misdemeanor aggravated trespass, the likely penalties you face include a county jail imprisonment for a year or less. You may also be asked to pay a fine instead or in addition to the jail sentence. The fine charged is $2,000 or less.
If, however, the aggravated trespass is charged as a felony, the penalties you are likely to receive are more severe. You may earn a county jail prison sentence of sixteen or twenty-four or thirty-six months. Alternatively, the judge can sentence you to be formal or felony probation instead, but with specific conditions or terms.
Fighting PEN 602 Charges
When faced with a criminal offense, you cannot take it lightly. If found guilty, the consequences go beyond the legal penalties to include your day-to-day challenges even after serving your sentence. For instance, having a criminal record will be a challenge for you when getting jobs, finding residential premises, or joining college, among many others.
Avoiding a wrongful conviction becomes your primary objective, as well as getting a favorable outcome from the situation. These goals are achievable with an experienced attorney who understands trespass laws and how to navigate through the system to get you a favorable outcome.
Your attorney studies your case and analyzes the evidence against you to give you the best defense possible. Sometimes, you may think you have committed the offense, but people are often wrongly charged with the offense when their intention was not to break the law.
The aspects of your incidence and the subsection you are charged under help shape the defenses your attorney will use. Some common defenses for this offense include:
You were within your Right to be on the Premises or Property
Even when you are charged with trespass, you cannot get a conviction if you legally had a right to the premises or property. If you participated or engaged in a legal labor or union activity, you are not guilty of trespass.
For instance, you are an elected official of a worker’s union representing construction workers. You hear a few rumors about working conditions in a particular construction site. You decide to visit the site and inspect the safety concerns and ascertain if the rumors are true. The landowner, however, finds you and asks you to leave, but you refuse to obey.
The property owner may proceed to call the police on you accusing you of trespassing on his or her property. However, you cannot be guilty of trespassing if you were at the premises in your capacity as a union representative. This means your position gave you a lawful right to the property.
Aside from this example, an experienced lawyer will help you determine your right to be at a particular place because of your involvement in an activity that is constitutionally protected. For instance, if you freely express yourself, it is found under the First Amendment of the constitution.
You were Permitted to be at the Premises or Land
If you get charged with these allegations because you occupied the property or premises without consent, according to PEN 602, you may still prove your innocence. If, in the beginning, you had consent from the owner to get to the property, then you are not guilty of trespassing. If you occupied or decided to extend your stay without permission after the initial permission, you are still not guilty of trespass, according to PEN 602.
However, if you were asked to leave the owner’s premises, your refusal to do so will result in criminal liability. Sometimes, you may have got permission from a husband to be at the premises, but the wife finds out later and accuses you of trespass. The husband may not have told her of your arrangement, but that does not make you guilty of the offense.
You Never Occupied the Premises or Property
Earlier, we discussed that you could get charged with trespass if you occupied the other person’s property without their permission. However, to be found guilty of this, the prosecutor must show that:
- You deprived the property owner the joy of using their property in the same manner and
- You did this for a significant and continuous period
If the charges were brought against you because you temporarily stayed at the person’s premises without their consent, your lawyer could successfully argue your case. You can claim to be innocent of the crime because you never entered and occupied the property as it is alleged.
You Never Interfered or Obstructed Activities Taking Place at the Place
If the charges against you are according to a section of the law forbidding entering a premise or property and interfering or obstructing business, you can still argue your case. For a guilty verdict, the prosecutor must show your motive or intention and obstruct or interfere with business activities. If you cannot show you interfered or obstructed business, you are innocent of it.
If your activities were not pleasing to the property owner, it does not mean you trespassed. For instance, if you just stood with a placard and did not block the premises' entrance or engage with the clients, you are innocent of trespass. Until you actively engage in the activities taking place there, you are innocent of trespass.
The Land was not Fenced, and there were no signs Prohibiting Trespassing
Earlier, we discussed getting charged with an infraction for trespassing, according to PEN 602.8. This happens if you entered a premise that was:
- Enclosed or fenced
- Or a property that had a sign prohibiting trespassing at specific distances or entrances to the property
If the land was not entirely enclosed or fenced or the signs were not posted in all the areas they should be, your lawyer can use it to win your case. If this is proven, the charges against you can get dismissed.
Expungement of your Criminal Record
If you get convicted of a criminal offense in California, you will get sentenced to a punishment that you are expected to fulfill. The record of your conviction is available to anyone that looks through your background. Unfortunately, a criminal conviction can deny you many opportunities and subject you to certain hardships.
For instance, employers are known to be skeptical of employing a person with a criminal past. The assumption is that you cannot be trusted and so they cannot trust you to work well without breaking the law. Similarly, property owners become weary of leasing their property to persons with a criminal background. Even when you have reformed from your past, or made a mistake you regret, it can be held against you.
A criminal past can also destroy your future. If you were applying to join college, your admission could get denied because of your criminal record. Renewing or issuing of a professional license is also adversely affected by a criminal record.
Because of these, having your record deleted from public view is critical for your future. Expungement of your criminal history means that your record is no longer accessible to the public, but only to the necessary government agencies.
Expungement is only issued once you complete your sentence successfully. Your lawyer files a petition with the court. The prosecutor is informed of your application and is allowed to respond. The court then sets a hearing date for when the judge decides if to award or not to award the expungement.
If your request is granted, you do not have to tell anyone about your criminal background or admit to it unless it is a government agency you are dealing with. Similarly, no one can access your background and victimize you based on it.
Find a Criminal Attorney Near Me
Criminal allegations are not only stressful but can adversely affect your future and relationships with others. When you face trespassing allegations, the offense may seem simple, but the consequences of a conviction can be harsh. Finding a lawyer that understands trespassing laws is critical to your defense. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we are committed to ensuring you get the legal representation you deserve as you fight the accusations. Call us at 408-622-0204 to discuss your case.