Criminal Trespass Laws (California Penal Code 602)
A group of young adults hop over a fence in the middle of the night and into the property of someone’s home, knowing that the owners are out of town. They proceed to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana in the backyard. The owner’s neighbors, awoken by the noise, call the police, and the group is arrested soon after, facing criminal charges of trespassing and various other charges.
This is an example of entering real property without the owner’s consent under California Penal Code 602(m), a common form of criminal trespass. However, there are many other forms of criminal trespass, including:
- Unlawfully entering a property with intent to interfere with a business (PC 602(k))
- Entering closed and restricted land (PC 602(o))
- Refusing to leave a motel and refusing to pay (PC 602(s))
There are also laws under PC 602 that are fact-specific, including:
- Cutting down wood and carrying away wood (PC 602(a) and (b))
- Digging into city lots (PC 602(c) and (d))
- Entering lands where oysters grow (PC 602(g))
- Entering farm areas where animals are (PC 602(h))
While each of these sections of the law are seemingly different, all share similar elements that the prosecution must prove against you in order to obtain a conviction.
Prosecution of Trespass (PC 602)
In order for you to be found guilty of trespassing under PC 602, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following:
- You willfully entered, occupied, or remained in an enclosed area, building, land or other property;
- You did so:
- Without the consent of the owner, agent, or other authorized persons; OR
- With the specific intent to interfere with a business or obstruct property; AND
- You interfered with another person’s property rights.
Sentencing and Punishment for Criminal Trespass
Under California Penal Code 602, the crime of trespassing is a misdemeanor offense. If you are convicted of this crime, you face up to six months in county jail and a $1,000 base fine.
Possible Defenses to Trespassing Charges
A skilled criminal defense attorney may be able to raise several legal defenses in your case. Some defenses our attorneys have successfully used to defend our clients charged with criminal trespass include:
- You had permission to be present at the property – If you had permission to be on the property or your actions on the property were authorized by “eligible” persons, you should not be convicted of this crime. If the person who owns the property or the person who has the legal rights to decide what happens on that property gives you explicit permission for your presence and acts, then you cannot be convicted of trespassing.
- You were not interfering with the business or property rights– If you didn’t touch, remove or damage any property, you weren’t occupying the area unlawfully, or you weren’t interfering with a business in any manner, you should not be convicted of trespassing.
- You had no intent – You had no intent to interfere, or your actions were not willful. If the prosecution is unable to prove that you intended to interfere with a business or enter a property unlawfully, you should not be convicted of criminal trespass.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Trespassing Laws
At Wallin & Klarich, we commonly receive questions from those facing criminal trespass charges. Some of these include:
What if I was protesting, or exercising my first amendment right?
If your actions did interfere with a business, and you were on the business’ property, it can be considered a trespass under California law. Conversely, if you did not interfere with a business, and you did not obstruct property or otherwise interfere with another’s property rights, you may have a strong defense.
What if I asked for permission, but no one told me that I couldn’t do it?
This is very dependent on which form of trespass a person is being charged with and the specific facts of the case. For example, if you are charged with violating California Penal Code 602(k), the prosecution need only prove that you entered property and obstructed, damaged, or interfered with a business with the willful intent to do so. On the other hand, if you are charged with violating California Penal Code 602(m), the prosecution must prove that you entered and occupied property without the consent of the owner until you were removed. Further, some forms of trespassing require the prosecution to prove that affirmative requests for you to leave were made by the property owner or owner’s agent: (602(l)(1), 602(o), 602(q), 602(s), 602(t), 602(u), 602(w), 602(x).
What if I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to be there?
This also depends on the facts of your case. It can be argued that if you didn’t know or could not have reasonably known you were prohibited from entering the property, you did not act willfully. However, some forms of trespassing require prosecutors to prove that the property had specific warning signs set at particular intervals around the property that indicated your entry was prohibited (602(h), 602(j), 602(l) 602(p), 602(r), 602(u), 602(v)).
Call the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
If you or a loved one has been charged with trespassing, you need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled attorneys have been successfully defending clients accused of trespassing for over 40 years. We will meet with you to review the facts of your case, and plan a defense strategy that will help you get the best outcome possible in your case.
With offices located in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you work or live.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.