Most people have heard the term "trespassing" and understand its basic meaning -- to enter another's property without their permission. But legally speaking, there must also be some level of intent. Simply wandering onto someone's property is not itself a crime or a civil wrong, but scaling a fence or disregarding a "No Trespassing" sign does adequately show intent. Criminal trespassing charges often involve other wrongful acts (or the intent to commit them), such as burglary, vandalism, or invasion of privacy.
It's important to understand that trespassing is both a crime and a civil wrong. You can be arrested in California for criminal trespass if, for example, you and your friends build a bonfire on property that is clearly marked as private or otherwise off-limits. Additionally, property owners may file claims against trespassers in an effort to collect for damages, regardless of whether a crime was committed.
California Criminal Trespass Laws at a Glance
California's Penal Code identifies more than 20 different examples of what constitutes a criminal trespass charge, such as "knowingly skiing in an area ... which is closed to the public," so it's not possible to list them all here. But the basics of criminal trespassing in California are listed below.
|Statutory Definition of Criminal Trespass||
Refusing or failing to leave land, real property, or structures belonging to or lawfully occupied by another and not open to the general public, upon being requested to leave by:
*See the full statute for a complete definition of criminal trespass under California law.
|Statutory Examples of Criminal Trespassing||
|Elements of Criminal Trespassing||
The specific elements of the offense are based on the specific type of trespassing alleged. But generally, the elements can be reduced to the following:
One commits an act of aggravated trespass if he or she:
|Charges & Penalties||
Criminal Trespass: Infraction (up to $100 fine); Misdemeanor (up to 6 mos. in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000)
Aggravated Trespass: Misdemeanor (up to 1 yr. in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000);Felony (up to 3 yrs. in prison, plus fines)
*Penalties depend on the severity of the charges. For instance, simply entering someone else's land without permission (assuming it's clearly marked with signs and/or fences) is typically charged as an infraction.
Note: State laws are always subject to change. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult a criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Get Legal Help with Your Criminal Trespass Charges in California
Trespassing usually doesn't result in much more than a small fine, but each case is different and some cases may even be charged as felonies. If you've been charged under California criminal trespass laws, you may want to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your legal options.
Contact a qualified attorney.