Any kind of trespassing is illegal in Los Angeles. However, criminal trespass refers to a more serious violation where you enter someone’s property intending to interfere with it or cause damage. Unfortunately, the line between what does and does not count as criminal trespassing is a fuzzy one, and many people are wrongly charged with this offense. The consequences are severe, including up to 6 months in jail or even a felony charge. If you have been arrested for trespassing, you need to talk to a Los Angeles trespassing lawyer.
The Simmrin Law Group is here to help. Our mission is to help those who have been accused of a crime, no matter what the circumstances. When you call us we will listen to you, take your side, and help you fight the charge to get the best defense possible. We understand trespassing cases and we know how to win. Let us give you a free consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.
How do trespassing laws work in Los Angeles?
Trespassing simply means entering someone’s land or property without permission. In many cases this is not charged as a crime at all, but rather as an infraction (similar to a traffic ticket). The fine is typically around $75 or $100 depending on the circumstances.
However, “criminal trespass” is a crime under California Penal Code Section 602. This is defined as entering the property with either:
The intent to interfere with the property or anything on it,
The intent to damage the property or anything on it, or
Actual interference or damage
The most common situations that are charged as criminal trespass include:
Entering the property to interfere with a business
Entering the property to damage something
Squatting, sleeping in or “unlawfully occupying” the property
Refusing to leave the property when asked
Refusing to leave a public building during its closed hours after being asked to leave
“Interfering with a business” is one of the most important on this list, because it can be applied to so many situations. For example:
A woman is angry about how her insurance company treated her so she goes to their office to complain. Her agent won’t meet with her, and she decides not to leave the lobby until he does. She starts telling other customers how bad the service is. Her only real intent here is to exercise her right to free expression and to fight back against as a consumer against an unfair business. Unfortunately, she is also “interfering” with that business and can be arrested and face jail time.
This is just one of the many ways that trespassing charges are misused in Los Angeles.
What is “aggravated trespass” in Los Angeles?
Aggravated trespass involves threats. It’s a separate offense charged under California Penal Code Section 601. Under this law, you are guilty of an “aggravated” trespassing charge if all of the following are true:
You threatened someone,
You made that threat with the intent to cause them to fear for their safety or the safety of their family, and
Within 30 days you then entered their home, a building adjacent to their home, or their workplace—with the intent to carry out the threat
This is considered more serious than regular trespassing, and it can apply in circumstances that wouldn’t normally count as trespassing at all. For example, if a man goes to his ex-girlfriend’s office, that is not usually trespassing (even if he’s only stopping in to talk to her). But if he goes to her office 3 weeks after he threatened her life, it could count as an aggravated trespass and possibly a felony.
What are the penalties for trespass crimes in Los Angeles?
As stated above, if you were simply on the person’s property and are issued a citation, you will likely pay a fine of $100 or less. In some cases it may be more.
If you are charged with any criminal version of trespass, however, it could be a misdemeanor or a felony—both with more serious consequences:
Criminal trespass cases, where you tried to interfere with or damage property, are misdemeanors.
The penalty is up to 6 months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
Aggravated trespass cases, which involve a threat, may be charged as misdemeanors or felonies depending on the circumstances and your criminal background. If a misdemeanor, they are the same as the penalties above.
The felony penalties are either 16 months, 2 years or 3 years in jail, and convicted felon status.
What if I was charged with trespass as part of a burglary?
This happens a lot. Technically, the crime of burglary includes entering the property unlawfully, but the prosecutor will often tack on a criminal trespass offense as a “lesser included charge.” What this means is you will only face the consequences for one or the other, not both. Burglary is more serious so if you are convicted you will face burglary penalties, which is a felony with hard prison time if the burglary involved a residence.
Prosecutors charge you this way so that it’s “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” They want you to lose on one charge even if you win on the other. This is a very dangerous situation and you need a lawyer.
What defenses can you use against a trespass charge?
There are many ways to defend against a trespass charge. The right defense to use depends on the situation. Here are some of the most effective for different types of cases:
You had a right to be there. This applies in many situations, and it is especially important if you are an employee who was arrested for “trespassing” when you were really part of a union demonstration. You had a right to be there.
You didn’t really “occupy” the property. Even if you slept on or even spent a long period of time on the property, you did not criminally “occupy” it if you haven’t deprived the owner of their own use or enjoyment of it. Many squatters and guerrilla campers can be acquitted this way.
You didn’t actually interfere with business. It’s hard for a business to prove what counts as “interference.”
You had no intent to interfere or damage. If you were spotted in someone’s backyard and detained, and police found tools on you, that does not mean you intended to break into the house or do anything else criminal. There are many legitimate reasons to have tools.
These are just a few of the ways you can potentially win your case. But building a strong defense depends on understanding the legal system. You should talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.
Talk to a Los Angeles Trespassing Lawyer for Free
Your trespassing charge does not have to ruin your life—and we won’t let it. Let the Simmrin Law Group put our years of experience to work for you. We will give you a FREE consultation to help you get started on your case. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.