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PC 602: Criminal Trespassing in California

by Shelby Wall

Whether you’re an avid backcountry camper or have just noticed “No Trespassing” signs around town, you’ve probably wondered what happens to those who don’t heed posted warnings. In California, two laws define and outline the consequences for criminal trespassing: PC 601 and PC 602. Here’s what you need to know.

PC 602: Criminal Trespassing Definition

California defines trespassing and criminal trespassing differently. According to California PC 602, trespassing is entering someone else’s property without permission. Criminal trespassing, however, involves specific intent to unlawfully damage, interfere with, or occupy that space.

Here are a few common examples of criminal trespassing:

  • Refusing to leave an establishment after the owner has asked you to do so (this applies to private and public buildings).
  • Entering someone else’s property with the intent to damage it.
  • Squatting in (unlawfully occupying) someone else’s home, land, or structure.
  • Going into a business with the intent of disrupting regular proceedings.
  • Felling timber on someone else’s lot.
  • Fishing for oysters or shellfish on another person’s property.
  • Skiing in an area that is posted with no trespassing signs.

While some of these incidents may seem outlandish, there are plenty of day-to-day occurrences with potential to result in criminal trespassing charges. Here are two sample cases.

  • Bob has a grudge against his neighbor Jimmy, who owns a restaurant down the street. After Jimmy’s latest slight, Bob barges into the restaurant in the middle of dinner service and begins yelling loudly. This action causes diners to flee the premises.
  • Rhonda doesn’t have anywhere to stay and spends the day in the East LA Library. At closing time, an employee asks her to leave. She pretends to do so. Instead, Rhonda hides in the stacks overnight. In the morning, she scares a pair of patrons who wake her up.

Is Trespassing a Felony?

Not usually. In most cases, California considers criminal trespassing to be a misdemeanor. However, this varies based on the gravity of the offense. The most severe form of this crime is called aggravated trespassing, which is defined in PC 601. Aggravated trespassing is considered a “wobbler,” which means that it may carry felony charges.

Those convicted of misdemeanor criminal trespassing may spend up to six months in jail. They may also receive fines of up to $1,000. However, with proper legal representation, Californians can avoid these charges altogether.

Defense Against Criminal Trespassing Charges

PC 602 explicitly defines criminal trespassing with three key pieces of terminology. A person must willfully enter a property with the specific intent to take actual destructive action. A competent defense team can contest whether your actions were willfully conducted with specific intent. They can also make a case for you if you did not damage anything during your time in the business.

Consent is another crucial element of many criminal trespassing defenses. If you had permission to enter the premises, left after being told to leave, or had a right to enter the building, you cannot be convicted.

As you can see, there are ways to build a defense in instances of a PC 602 violation. Attorney Ron Brower has more than 45 years of experience defending individuals charged with trespassing, burglary, restraining order violations, and more. Our team will take the time to develop a thorough understanding of your circumstances. We will then distill this information into an ironclad defense.

If you are facing criminal trespassing charges in California, you need effective representation. Contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower today for a fully confidential consultation.

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