Criminal Trespass Law & Defense
California Penal Code Section 602 & 601(a)
The crime of Trespass is found at California penal code sections 601(a) and 602. There are a variety of trespass charges that may be filed against a defendant depending on the unique circumstances of the case. For example, trespass with intent to interfere with a business is charged as PC 602(k), whereas trespass to enter and occupy property is charged as PC 602(m). There are dozens of specific charges of trespass but the penalties and defenses are very similar no matter what specific trespass crime is charged against a defendant.
In order for the district attorney to prove the trespass the prosecutor must prove that the defendant entered upon property without the owner's consent to commit an illegal act of some kind, or that the defendant remained on property after being instructed to vacate the property.
Property, as used in trespass law, can be just about any type of property such as a building, a home, a vacant field, a boat, etc.
Sentence for Trespass
Most trespass charges are filed as misdemeanors, with the exceptions that trespass with threats of serious bodily injury (PC 601(a)) may be filed a misdemeanor or as a felony and trespass to enter or occupy property (PC 602(m)) may be filed as a misdemeanor or as an infraction.
Felony Sentence: If found guilty of felony trespass (PC 601(a)) the defendant could face up to three years in prison. However, probation sentences (without prison) are more common for defendant who have little or no criminal history. Also, for felony trespass convictions the defendant may be entitled to suspended sentences to avoid actual prison. Every felony trespass case is different and whether a probation sentence or a suspended sentence is available in felony PC 601(a) cases depends largely on the facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history.
Misdemeanor Sentence: If found guilty of misdemeanor trespass the defendant may face up to one hundred eighty days in the county jail; however, informal probation sentences with work release or house arrest orders are more common than sentences for actual jail. The most common misdemeanor trespass charges include: PC 602(a) trespass to threaten injury, PC 602(k) trespass to interfere with a business, PC 602(m) trespass to enter and occupy property, PC 602 trespass on closed lands, and PC 602(l)(1) trespass with refusal to leave upon order of owner of property.
Infraction Sentence: If found guilty of infraction trespass the defendant may be ordered to pay a fine but jail in never required. There are only several trespass charges that may be filed as infraction with the most common infraction trespass charges filed under PC 602(m) trespass to enter and occupy property and PC 602(x)(2)(A) trespass in a maternity ward.
Collateral Punishment for PC 602 Crimes
In addition to any possible jail time, if found guilty of criminal trespass, the defendant may be made to stay away from certain people or certain places under a criminal protective order. Also, convictions for criminal trespass carry harsh probation terms, fines and penalties, possible loss to immigration status (for non-U.S. citiznes), possible law suits from victims, and possible professional licensing discipline (applies to any professional or occupation license such as any license issued by a Medical Board, State Bar, or Commission).
Defenses to Trespass Charges
Common defenses to trespass charges inlcude: statute of limitations (one year for misdemeanor trepass crimes and three years for felony trespass crimes), mistake of fact, insufficient evidence, consent to enter the property, claim of right, abatement of nuisance, emergency, necessity, self defense and defense of others.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are charged with trespass, or a violation of California penal code 601(a) or 602, contact our criminal defense attorneys today and without delay for a free consultation. Our criminal attorneys will explain your rights and options and we are available twenty-four hours a day to assist you.
Also, our criminal attorney can assist you with other issues associated with trepass charges, including: expungement of prior PC 601 and 602 charges, warrants for trespass crimes, destruction and sealing of records associated with trespass arrest, and violation of probation charges associated with both PC 601 and 602 crimes. Call today!
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More Trespassing Crimes
PC 601(a) Trespass with threat of serious bodily injury;
PC 602(a) Trespass to remove timber of another;
PC 602(c) Trespass to injure or sever produce
PC 602(f) Trespass to damage or destroy highway sign
PC 602(h)(1) Trespass to injure farm animal
PC 602(i) Trespass to damage fence or gate
PC 602(k) Trespass with intent to interfere with business
PC 602(m) Trespass to enter & occupy property
PC 602(n) Trespass to drive vehicle on private property
PC 602(p) Trespass to enter closed lands
PC 602((q) Trespass with refusal to leave building
PC 602(s) Trespass with refusal to leave hotel or motel
PC 602(t) Trespass to enter or refuse to leave property
PC 602.5(a) Trespass with unauthorized entry of dwelling
PC 602.8(a) Trespass in fenced area or posted land