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 fuzzy, and many people are wrongly charged with this offense.
The consequences of criminal trespassing are severe, including up to six months in jail or even a felony charge. If you have been arrested for trespassing, you need to talk to a trespassing lawyer in Los Angeles. The Simmrin Law Group is here to help.
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 (CPC) § 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 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.
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What Is the Difference Between Civil and Criminal Trespassing in California?
In California, there are two types of trespassing charges: civil and criminal. Civil trespassing is pursued in civil court, which means someone sues someone else for trespassing. Criminal trespassing, however, is pursued in criminal court and prosecuted by the government.
Other than the prosecuting part, civil and criminal trespassing are largely the same. However, with civil charges, you could be compensating the other party instead of paying fines and serving jail time. If you’ve been arrested for trespassing, chances are likely that you’re facing criminal charges.
If you’re not sure what type of charge you’re facing, a trespassing attorney in Los Angeles can help. Our team can give you a free initial consultation and tell you what you should expect from your case.
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What Is “Aggravated Trespass” in Los Angeles?
Aggravated trespass involves threats. It’s a separate offense charged under California Penal Code § 601. Under this law, you are guilty of an “aggravated” trespassing charge if all 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 three weeks after he threatened her life, it could count as an aggravated trespass and possibly a felony.
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Crimes Related to Trespassing in Los Angeles
Often, state prosecutors will try to tack on extra charges to your conviction, depending on what you were doing at the time of your trespassing. These related charges can include:
- Burglary: If you trespass inside a building with the intention to commit any felony or theft, you could be charged with burglary. You don’t even need to commit those crimes – if a prosecutor can show that you had intent, you can be charged nonetheless.
- Vandalism: If you deface or destroy someone else’s property, you can be charged with vandalism. Trespassing and vandalism often go hand in hand, as people arrested for vandalism are commonly unlawfully on someone else’s property.
A skilled Los Angeles trespassing attorney could be able to reduce your charge if you’re facing something more severe than you deserve. Talk to one of our defense lawyers to learn how we can help.
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What Are the Penalties for Trespassing 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, the L.A. County court could charge you with a misdemeanor or a felony—both with more serious consequences:
- Misdemeanor penalties
- Criminal trespass cases, where you tried to interfere with or damage property, are misdemeanors.
- The penalty is up to six months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
- Felony penalties
- 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, two years, or three years in jail, and convicted felon status.
You don’t have to receive such harsh penalties, however. With the right defense, your trespassing lawyer in Los Angeles could be able to reduce the punishment for your crime or even get your charges dropped. Our team can assess your case and let you know what we can do for you.
What If I Was Charged With Trespassing 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 had 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 an L.A. trespassing lawyer as soon as possible.
Talk to a Los Angeles Trespassing Attorney for Free
Your trespassing charge does not have to ruin your life – and we won’t let it. Let the Los Angeles trespassing lawyers at Simmrin Law Group put our years of experience to work for you.
Our mission is to help those who have been accused of a crime, no matter 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.
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 and get your free case evaluation today.