What Is Criminal Trespass?
Criminal trespass is a serious offense involving unauthorized entry onto someone else’s property or a restricted area. This violation of the law can result in severe consequences, including fines and imprisonment. Understanding criminal trespass laws and regulations will be crucial to avoid any unwanted legal issues.
What Is Criminal Trespass in California?
In its simplest form, trespassing is defined as entering or remaining on someone else’s property without permission or the right to do so. In some cases, there may be minimal damage caused by being on the property, so there could be other charges in addition to trespassing. In most cases, to be convicted of this crime, an individual must have acted “willfully,” which means acting deliberately or with purpose.
Trespass can be charged as an infraction, a misdemeanor, or a felony, depending on the circumstances.
Elements and Penalties of Criminal Trespass
The elements and penalties of criminal trespass vary depending on the circumstances of the offense. It is essential to be aware of the elements that define criminal trespass and the potential consequences, including fines and imprisonment.
Trespass as an Infraction
Trespassing occurs when a defendant enters the land of another without permission, and the property is enclosed by a fence or has “no trespassing” signs posted.
The fine for a first violation is $75 and increases to $250 if the same property is involved in any subsequent incidents of trespassing. Additionally, if an individual refuses to leave private property after being advised that they are not allowed on the premises, they may be charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass.
Unlike other forms of trespass, which require knowledge or intent, it is not necessary to show that an individual was aware that they were committing trespass; simply entering an enclosed area with signed warnings can still result in prosecution and conviction.
Misdemeanor trespassing is defined as entering or remaining on someone else’s property without permission or right to do so. It is punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000 and/or imprisonment in county jail for up to six months. This crime can also result in probation or community service sentences depending on the situation.
Prosecutors can charge trespass as a felony if the offender: 1) made a credible threat to harm or seriously injure someone, with intent to cause fear for their safety; and 2) entered the victim’s property/workplace within 30 days of making the threat.
California law categorizes aggravated or felony trespass as a “wobbler,” giving prosecutors the discretion to file the charge as either a misdemeanor or felony. Depending on the circumstances of the case and the severity of the offense, individuals may incur either misdemeanor or felony penalties.
For misdemeanor aggravated trespass, offenders may be sentenced to up to one year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000. On the other hand, felony convictions could result in sentences of up to three years in prison and/or fines of up to $10,000.
Potential Legal Defenses to Criminal Trespass
Accusations of criminal trespass can be serious matters that involve hefty fines and jail time. As such, it is important for individuals to familiarize themselves with commonly accepted defenses for this type of crime. Understanding the types of arguments you may use to dispute the charge could help you receive a more favorable outcome or lead to having the case against you dismissed altogether.
You had the right to be on the property, or you were given permission to be on the property
One way a defendant can defend themselves from a charge of criminal trespass is by proving that they had the right to access or remain on the property in question. This could entail demonstrating that permission was granted by either the owner of the property or another individual lawfully authorized to do so.
Additionally, if you inherently had the right to be on the property, this is a valid defense as well. For example, you are a tenant at a property, or you own the property.
The trespass was not willful
Another defense to criminal trespass is that your behavior was not willful—that is, that you had no intention to break into or remain on someone else’s property without authorization. For example, you were lost, or you were coerced into intruding onto the property.
There was no fencing or signage
Additionally, if the property in question lacked barriers like fences or signs to indicate that it is off-limits, the charges might not stand up in court.
To attempt to have your charges dismissed, your attorney can highlight that there weren’t any barriers – like fences or signs – preventing or discouraging entry onto the property. Without these indicators, it would be difficult to show that an individual entered the property with willful intent.
Reach Out to an Experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’ve been arrested for criminal trespass, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed. Seeking advice from an experienced attorney will help ease your fears. A competent lawyer will be able to evaluate every aspect of your case, ensuring that you have the best chance of receiving a favorable outcome. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with a trusted Los Angeles criminal defense attorney.
Last Updated on February 21, 2023