Misdemeanor Criminal Trespass

By Jeffery Rubenstein

Historic Definitions of Trespass
People have been trespassing against one another since the dawn of time. Causing societies to enact codes of law to keep the peace, stimulate economic growth, maintain justice and develop civilizations. The USA and California penal codes are based on old English law which has 3 categories of trespassing. Here they are with some examples.

  • Trespass of the person: Domestic violence, battery, assault.
  • Trespass of chattels (Personal possessions): Jewelry, furniture, clothes, cars, yachts , crops, orchards and livestock.
  • Trespass of property: Real estate and its’ structures, such as homes, barns, garages,
  • sculptures and other fixtures.

Today the meaning of “trespass” usually refers to Trespass of property.

Misdemeanor Criminal Trespass: California Penal Code 602
Penal Code 602 defines criminal trespass with 25 sections (a)-(z). And many of those have subsections. Here are a few samples.

  • Entering someone else’s property without permission.
  • Remaining on another person’s property when asked to leave.
  • Raiding crops, orchards, trees, oyster beds and shellfish beds.
  • Skiing closed trails posted No Skiing or Trail Closed.
  • Spraying Graffiti or otherwise defacing some else’s building.
  • Refusing to be re screened when reentering a courthouse.
  • Refusing to leave a state, county or city public building during hours when closed to the public.

All these codes share the same requirement for successful prosecution and conviction.
The prosecutor must establish that the defendant meet these behavioral standards.

  • She or he willfully entered or remained on the property of another.
  • She or he did not have the owner’s consent. She or he did this with the specific intent of interfering with the other person’s property rights.
  • AND the she or he actually interfered with these rights.

Trespass can be charged as an infraction, misdemeanor or felony.

Infraction: California Penal Code Section 602.8 PC is an infraction punishable by a fine. This offense occurs when a defendant willfully enters the land of another without permission and the land is enclosed by a fence or has “No Trespassing” signs posted. The fine for a first time violation is $75-$250 for the 2nd and 3rd subsequent violations when the same property is involved. Generally a 4th infraction is charged as a misdemeanor.
Misdemeanor: Most criminal trespass cases in California are charged as misdemeanors. This means that a defendant can face up to 6 months in county jails, a fine up to $1,000 or both jail time and the fine. Some trespass charges are “wobblers.” They may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony. Generally a 4th misdemeanor is charged as a felony.
Felony Trespass: Also know as “Aggravated trespass” this charge is a serious felony depending on circumstances.
Trespass LA County: Misdemeanor Special Directive 12-07-20
Effective December 8, 2020 certain trespassing offenses will no longer be prosecuted In LA County if there are indications of substance abuse disorder, mental illness or homelessness. Rather than criminal prosecution those people will be diverted to appropriate mental health, rehabilitation, counseling or other community resources to address their problems. People will be prosecuted in LA County if their actions meet any of 3 exceptions and factors for consideration.

  • Repeat trespassing on the same public or private property over the preceding 24 months.
  • Verifiable imminent security risk.
  • No indications of substance abuse disorder, mental illness or homelessness.

The goal of this Misdemeanor Reform policy directive is to re imagine public safety and best serve the interests of justice and community well being. For details see the JKRLAW Blog Misdemeanor Special Directive12-07-20.
Now Accepting New Clients
Jeffery K. Rubenstein is a criminal defense attorney in Beverly Hills CA. He has successfully defended clients all over Southern California against trespass and related crimes. A law, professor he has lectured extensively on Constitutional law, Federal Criminal law, California criminal law, domestic violence, stalking and cybercrimes. He presents this JKRLAW Blog as first of series of Blogs on Trespass. Jeffery K. Rubenstein is now accepting new clients.

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