You are trespassing when you enter someone else's property without that person's consent or legal right to access the property. In California, a simple trespassing charge is a misdemeanor. The maximum punishment for it is six months in prison. However, if you threaten to murder or hurt someone and then break into their house or place of business to carry out the threat, you could face charges for felony aggravated trespass.
Trespassing offenses in California are punishable by a maximum of three years in prison and hefty court fines. If you face charges for aggravated trespassing in Los Angeles, it would be helpful to have strong legal counsel. You will be fully informed of your charges' legal ramifications and alternatives by your defense team. To win your case, the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney will also prepare a strong defense against your accusations.
Legal Meaning of Aggravated Trespass
The legal meaning of trespassing under California law is entering someone's property without that person's consent. You can commit this offense in a variety of ways. For example, camping on someone else's land without that person's consent or going into a location designated "no trespassing." A less-severe act, like hiding in another's yard or garage, can also result in prosecution. The law against trespassing is under California PC 602. This statute provides the legal definition of trespassing and recommended sentences. As a severe crime, aggravated trespass carries harsher punishments.
Aggravated trespass is illegal under California PC 601. Aggravated trespass, as under this legislation, is making credible threats against another person and then going inside their residence or place of employment to make good the threat. Simple trespass charges do not include making threats and intending to follow through on them. This sets California PC 601 apart from PC 602. If you make genuine threats to physically harm another person and then follow them without permission to their home or workplace within thirty days of the threats, you could face charges under PC 601.
Your case must involve aggravating circumstances to face charges for aggravated trespass. There are no aggravating circumstances when you invade someone else's property without their consent. However, aggravating circumstances like intending to hurt someone or destroy property could raise your charges from a misdemeanor to a felony.
The specific components or circumstances that constitute an offense are listed in the legal definition of that offense. To be found guilty by the court, the prosecution must establish all the elements of the crime beyond reasonable doubt. The following are the components of aggravated trespass that the DA must prove in court for a guilty finding:
- That you threatened to harm someone physically or cause them to suffer severe bodily harm in a credible manner
- You threatened the individual intending to cause them to worry about their well-being and their close family's safety.
- You illegally visited the person's house without a proper reason, intending to make good the threat within thirty days after making the credible threat, or
- You illegally and intentionally entered the individual's workplace within 30 days of issuing the credible threat and searched for the person without a justifiable reason, intending to carry through with the threat.
To secure a guilty verdict, the DA need not demonstrate in court that your acts were deliberate. Additionally, if you entered your property, residence, or place of business, you are not subject to prosecution for aggravated trespass. For example, you will not face charges for aggravated trespass for showing up at work if you allegedly made a credible threat against your coworker. Other elements that point to your desire to execute the threat to press charges against you will be taken into account by the prosecutor.
Let us go into more depth about these components to comprehend their significance and repercussions from a legal standpoint.
Making a Credible Threat
Making credible threats is the primary distinction between simple and aggravated trespass. An aggravating element that could increase the gravity and severity of a trespass prosecution is the issuing of credible threats.
According to California law, a credible threat makes the target reasonably worry about their or close family's safety. A credible threat must also come from someone capable of carrying it out.
You can issue credible threats verbally, electronically, or in writing. By displaying a pattern of behavior, with or without threatening comments, you could indicate a real threat.
Therefore, the prosecution must show that you have the means to execute the threat if you are accused of making one against another individual.
Threats to Do Great Bodily Harm
Threats in aggravated trespass cases are meant to injure another person seriously. According to California law, severe bodily harm is any significant deterioration of the human physical state. Physical harm examples that can qualify as extreme in this situation include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Bone fractures
- Wounds that would require extensive suturing
- Severe physical disfigurement
- Loss of function or impairment on any bodily organ or member.
A credible threat must inspire a person to worry about their safety and their immediate family's safety. Fear that is warranted is acceptable. It could be challenging to demonstrate that a person's conduct or words reasonably made someone worry for their well-being. Because of this, California criminal courts consider the specifics of each case to determine if the offender intended to make their victim feel fearful. The judge could take into account these factors:
- Your verbal communication with the alleged victim
- Your actions when making the convincing threat
- Whether you had any companions
- How the alleged victim received the threat
- Your connection to the alleged victim
- Any interactions you could have had in the past with the victim
The jury will consider each of these elements to establish whether the victim was legitimately concerned for their safety or those they love.
The immediate family of the victim is likewise covered by reasonable fear. According to California law, an individual's immediate family includes any close relatives they have, like:
- Their spouse, child, or parent
- Sister or brother
- Grandparent or grandchild
- Anyone, they are related to by marriage or blood
- Someone who resides in their home
Aggravated trespass charges would be brought against you if you threatened to harm someone's family and broke into their home without permission to carry out your threat.
Within Thirty Days
Keep in mind that if you enter the alleged victim's home or business within 30 days after making a credible threat, this statute will be in effect. You must have known or reasonably should have known that the person you threatened with severe bodily harm owns the home or workplace you are visiting. If that is the case, the court will have grounds to think that you meant to follow through on the threat you made against the claimed victim.
Penalties for a California Aggravated Trespass Conviction
Depending on the facts of the case and the defendant's prior criminal history, prosecutors can prosecute trespassing as a felony or misdemeanor. A more precarious offense is aggravated trespass. According to the specifics of your case, the DA can prosecute it as either a felony or a misdemeanor.
The following punishments apply to aggravated trespass misdemeanor charges:
- Summary or misdemeanor probation
- Maximum of one year in prison
- $2,000 in court fines
Probation for a misdemeanor can last for one to three years. You will serve the entirety of your jail term outside of jail and under the court's supervision if the judge convicts you to probation. However, you must provide the court with regular reports so that the judge knows how well or poorly you are doing while on probation.
If you are found guilty under this statute on felony charges, you could face the following punishments:
- Formal or felony probation
- 16 months, two, or three years of jail time
- Court fines of $10,000 are possible.
You could spend three to five years on probation for the crime. You could serve a portion of your sentence without imprisonment if the judge convicts you on felony probation. You will also have a probation officer watching over you. The officer will make sure you follow all probationary rules and regulations. You must follow the probationary rules laid forth by the judge at all times. They could consist of the following:
- A prohibition from approaching the accused victim or their family members in any way
- While on probation, do not commit any crimes
- If the judge finds you were under the influence, you need to receive alcohol or drug treatment
- Community service
- Payment of restitution to victims and court fines
Additional Repercussions for Convictions Under California PC 601
In California, a criminal conviction has various effects on your life. Your social and professional lives are likely to be among the many areas of your life that will be affected.
For example, a criminal conviction will impact your ability to land a good job. You will still have an adverse criminal record that will hinder your finding a job that suits you, even after serving jail or prison time. Before hiring, employers verify the backgrounds of potential workers. Those with criminal histories are likely to pass up good career possibilities even if they have the proper qualifications.
A criminal record will alter how other people perceive and treat you. The impact on your social life is significant. Some people experience the loss of loved ones. After serving time, some people find it challenging to form new friendships. A criminal record can also affect your ability to access certain services, like renting a house. Landlords often run background checks on prospective tenants and can decline your application if you have a criminal record.
Additionally, a conviction under California PC 601 has detrimental immigration repercussions.
The primary categories of crimes with serious immigration repercussions are listed under California law. They include felonies with aggravation, like aggravated trespass. As a result, if you are found guilty of an offense under this statute, you could be deported immediately or barred from entering the country altogether.
An aggravated trespass felony conviction will also affect your right to carry a weapon. In California, felons are not allowed to own or buy firearms. Depending on the specifics of your situation, you can lose your right to buy or own a gun temporarily or permanently. After being found guilty, you must turn over any guns to the authorities.
Expungement of Your Criminal Record
By requesting that the court expunge your conviction record, you can eliminate all of the adverse effects of criminal convictions and penalties. California PC 1203.4 governs expungement procedures in California. Once they have served their prison sentence and fulfilled the requirements of their probation, the law enables ex-offenders to request that their criminal record be expunged. You will need to be concerned about what someone can discover if they run a background check on you once your conviction has been erased. But when applying for government jobs, you must declare your criminal history.
You can submit a petition to the court where the conviction occurred to have the judge order the criminal conviction to be erased. Before making a final judgment, the judge will carefully review the facts of your case and the probation reports. To be eligible for expungement, you must also fulfill several requirements, like:
- Completing probation and any required jail sentence for the initial offense
- You cannot face criminal charges when you submit an expungement application.
- When submitting the petition, you cannot be on probation or serving time in prison for another offense.
How to Defend Against California PC 601 Charges
Aggravated trespassing is a serious offense, involving harsh penalties and repercussions if found guilty. To escape the consequences of a conviction, you must contest your charges. That will be attainable if you hire a knowledgeable criminal lawyer from a leading firm. Your attorney builds a strong case against you that could persuade the jury to drop or downgrade the charges against you by gathering sufficient evidence to refute the prosecutor's assertions. Fortunately, California law offers several defense options that your attorney can apply depending on your circumstances. The most effective of these tactics are:
There Was No Credible Threat
You could utilize this argument if you did not threaten the claimed victim. You will not be guilty under this law if there is no threat. If, on the other hand, you unlawfully entered someone else's property or place of business without their consent or the right to do so, you could face misdemeanor trespass charges under California PC 602. The judge will drop your charges to a less severe charge if other aspects of your case meet the requirements of simple trespass.
This defense tactic could also be helpful if you made a threat in jest and lacked the capability or intent to follow through. It is possible that the alleged victim took you seriously and feared for their well-being or the protection of their close relatives. The threat was not credible, as your counsel can prove in court.
It is possible that you lacked the necessary skills or the motivation to carry it out. Once more, if the threat was untrue, but your behavior met all the other requirements for trespassing, you will be charged less harshly under PC 602.
You Had No Intention of Making The Victim Fearful
While you could have intimidated the other individual, your attorney could counter that you did not mean for them to be concerned about their safety and protecting their close relatives. It is possible that you made the threat to impress a crucial person you were with by demonstrating your strength or bravery. Or perhaps you just wanted to make everyone around you laugh with your antics. The judge can drop your charges if the court accepts this defense.
You Had No Intention of Hurting the Victim or Their Family
If the prosecutor has further evidence against you, you can utilize this defense to undermine it and persuade the jury to drop the charges against you. You could have made a severe threat and followed the claimed victim to their house or business, but you chose not to carry out the threat. In court, your counsel can present proof that you were in the victim's house for work or for other reasons aside from that. For example, you could have gone there to make amends with the claimed victim or to handle some unrelated business.
You Did Not Trespass
This defense would be valid if you did not enter the claimed victim's home or workplace. Remember that you have committed aggravated trespass if you went into the victim's house or business intending to execute the threat. According to this statute, you are not guilty if all you did was make a credible threat that you would not follow through.
Additionally, your lawyer can contend that you did not intend to trespass because you were at your place of employment or habitation when you entered. Remember that you are not guilty under PC 601 if you enter your own house, property, or home of work. The judge will drop your charges in that situation.
California Aggravated Trespass and Related Offenses
Some offenses under California law are related to aggravated trespass. They are:
Trespass — California PC 602
Aggravated trespass is a severe form of trespass, according to PC 602. You have committed trespass if you access or stay on someone else's property or business without their permission or the legal right to be there. Here are some scenarios that could meet the requirements for this offense:
- Illegally entering a business premise and interfering with daily operations
- Gaining entry to someone else's property intending to cause damage
- Trespassing on someone else's property
- Refusing to leave a person's home or business, notwithstanding their desire to do so
- Entering a public place before it is open and staying there even after a staff member asks you to leave.
However, the prosecution must show that you purposefully entered or intruded on another's property without their consent, intending to cause harm or obstruct commerce. The judge can find you guilty if the facts of your case meet all the requirements for this crime.
Depending on the specifics of your case, a trespassing accusation in California can be either an infraction or a misdemeanor. If the prosecutor brings an infraction charge against you, you will be released after paying a modest fine. However, if you are found guilty of a misdemeanor, you could spend up to six months in jail and pay a $1,000 fine.
California PC 422 prohibits using criminal threats if you threaten to seriously hurt or kill another individual. You could be held liable even if you did not carry out the threat. However, your conduct must satisfy this crime's components for the jury to find you guilty. These components include:
- You made a deliberate threat to kill or seriously hurt another individual.
- You verbally, electronically, or in writing made that threat.
- You wanted the victim to know that the threat was directed at them.
- The threat was unequivocal, immediate, explicit, and detailed, showing your capability and purpose to carry it out.
- The victim began to worry about their safety and the protection of their close family members.
- The victim had a right to be afraid.
Credible threats, as under this law, is a wobbler offense. According to the facts of the case, the DA can prosecute it as a felony or a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor conviction carries a $1,000 fine and a one-year prison sentence. A felony conviction carries a $10,000 fine and a maximum four-year jail sentence.
Find a Competent Criminal Attorney Near Me
Are there aggravated trespass accusations against you or your loved one in Los Angeles?
Having an experienced criminal attorney by your side from the beginning of the legal process is beneficial. That will ease your stress and make the process smooth for you. Our knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers at Los Angeles Criminal Attorney can also provide legal assistance and counsel to help you successfully navigate all legal procedures. We could develop a strong defense against your charges to obtain the best outcome for your case. To learn more about our services and your options, contact us at 424-333-0943.