Trespassing happens when someone enters another individual's property without their consent or authority to do so. Criminal trespassing, on the other hand, entails more than only being somewhere you aren't permitted to be. It can be related to a variety of other activities, such as playing loud music or posting unpleasant flyers on someone else's door.

Aggravated trespass is much more serious than criminal trespass, and it can result in lengthy jail sentences and substantial fines. Expert legal assistance is required to distinguish between an ordinary criminal trespass, which carries less severe penalties, and aggravated trespass, which carries more severe penalties. Contact the Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm if you are facing aggravated trespass charges in Riverside, CA, for expert legal services.

Legal Definition of Aggravated Trespass Under California Law

Trespassing could easily be passed off as a common occurrence with no serious consequences for the perpetrator. There are, nevertheless, laws prohibiting trespassing, particularly aggravated trespassing. Although it is usually a misdemeanor to enter another person's property against their consent, there are times when the court will charge the same offense or similar behavior as a felony. Trespass occurs when you know someone will not allow or let you get close to them, yet you nonetheless turn up on their property. Trespassing, on the other hand, becomes a serious criminal violation when it includes threats and the danger of bodily harm.

The state of California's Penal Code Section 601 prohibits aggravated trespassing. According to California's PC 601, aggravated trespassing is defined as threatening another individual with physical harm and then intruding on their home or office without their consent. Since the offense is more serious than a regular case of trespassing, the court will regard it as such. A person convicted of serious trespassing is deemed a felon rather than a minor offender. As a result, he or she will be imprisoned for several years and punished significantly, among other sanctions.

Difference Between California Trespass Crime and Aggravated Trespass

It's crucial to understand the distinction between a trespass offense and an aggravated trespass offense. Even though the term "trespass" is commonly used in a casual context, California state law distinguishes between two types of trespassing: trespassing and aggravated trespassing.

Trespassing can signify several things based on who you ask. A property owner can describe a trespasser as anyone who enters their property without authorization, perhaps to take some wood. It might mean unhoused persons living on the streets, under a bridge, or in an empty building without authorization for days or weeks.

Trespassing is illegal, according to California PC Section 602, which follows aggravated trespassing. When it comes to trespassing, the most important thing to remember is that it's when someone enters another person's property with the intent to interfere with the victim's property rights. Notably, the accused's entry could be voluntary, but it can deviate if the individual in question tampered with, or attempted to interfere with, the victim's property rights. Trespassing on its own is a less serious offense that is normally charged as a misdemeanor. However, it can also be handled as a felony or an infraction.

Conversely, aggravated trespassing focuses more on the victim's wellbeing and threat, and has little to do with property rights. The safety of the individual and/or the victim's family is the major concern when the alleged trespasser threatens the alleged victim. Willful entry into another's property is merely a method of threatening or executing the menace against the victim.

What The Prosecutor Must Prove To Convict You

To better comprehend the legal concept of aggravated trespass, let's go through the components of this offense. For the defendant to be convicted of a crime, the prosecution will have to prove certain facts in court beyond a reasonable doubt. They are as follows:

  • The perpetrator made a genuine threat of inflicting physical damage to another person
  • That he/she made the threat to put that individual in reasonable/real fear for his/her own life or the safety of a close family member
  • That the defendant illegally accessed the person's home or business without their consent less than 30 days after issuing a credible threat, intending to execute their menace
  • That the defendant was well informed that the location he/she illegally accessed belonged to the individual he/she had endangered. He/she even attempted to locate the plaintiff without having a legal reason to do so

It's important to note that the prosecution will not be required to prove that the defendant acted deliberately to prove that he or she committed an aggravated trespassing violation. Again, the defendant may not be convicted if he or she entered his or her own house, real property, or workplace after making the threat. It has to be in the plaintiff's home, real property, or workplace.

Let's look at each component to see how the prosecutor intends to charge this crime.

Credible Threat

To be charged under this law, the defendant must have issued a credible threat, according to California Penal Code Section 601. The following are examples of a credible threat:

  • One that makes a person fear for their safety and/or the wellbeing of their immediate family
  • One that gives the impression that the offender is capable of executing the act

A credible threat isn't merely one that's spoken. An individual can use electronic or written threats to harm another person. Credible threats can be suggested by the perpetrator's behavioral patterns or a combination of the accused's behavior and statements uttered.

Possibility of Serious Physical/Bodily Injury

Under this statute, a perpetrator will only face prosecution if the threat issued was to do substantial physical harm to another person or the plaintiff's close family. In this scenario, a severe bodily injury refers to a significant deterioration in the physical condition of the individual receiving the threat. An individual who has sustained serious bodily trauma may have had cracked bones, lost consciousness, concussion, or lost the functionality of a body organ. The plaintiff, too, could have sustained severe wounds that necessitated extensive stitching or perhaps a catastrophic disfigurement.

Reasonable Fear

According to California law, the other individual must have experienced reasonable fear after receiving a genuine threat. Reasonable fear, in this context, refers to the victim's genuine belief that the offender could harm him or his close family. The hurdle here is demonstrating that the offender intended to put the victim in a reasonable fearful state. To reach a decision, the court will have to examine the case's conditions and details in great detail.

The court will examine the following factors while making its decision:

  • Verbal messages delivered or uttered by the offender to the victim
  • His/her actions
  • Other than the offender and the plaintiff, was there anyone else present when the defendant was making threats?
  • How the complainant responded to the threats
  • The victim's and defendant's relationship, if any exists.
  • Whether or not the two had previously crossed paths

Self-protection or That of a Close Relative

Finally, a defendant is convicted of aggravated trespassing if they put another individual's or a close/immediate family member's safety in danger. The term "close/immediate family members" can refer to any of the following:

  • A parent, a child, or a spouse
  • Grandparents, grandchildren, brother, sister, or anybody else by blood or marriage who is linked to them
  • Someone who lives at or visits their home frequently

If you've been charged with aggravated trespass, you will need the assistance of a skilled criminal defense attorney. He or she will assist you in determining whether your accusations meet all of the conditions and what your choices are. Remember that an experienced attorney can persuade the court to dismiss or lessen your penalties. This way, you'll avoid confronting the severe punishments affiliated with a felony charge.

Penalties for a California Aggravated Trespass Conviction

A violation of Section 601 of the California Penal Code, in general, is a wobbler. As a result, the prosecutor has the option of charging the defendant with a felony or misdemeanor. The prosecutor's judgment will be based on the details of the offense and the defendant's criminal history.

If you are found guilty of misdemeanor aggravated trespass, you could face the following penalties:

  • Misdemeanor or summary probation
  • Incarceration for no more than 1 year
  • Fines of no more than $2,000

Again, if you are convicted of a felony, the following are the most likely consequences you will face:

  • Felony probation or formal probation
  • Maximum sentence of three years in prison
  • Fines of no more than $10,000

In California, aggravated trespass is a crime that carries several penalties. That is why, to have the charges lessened or avoid a conviction, you must defend the accusations with the help of a criminal defense attorney.

Impacts on Gun Rights

Aggravated trespass, on the other hand, is a crime that could jeopardize your firearms rights. It all relies on whether the court sentences you to a misdemeanor or felony.

The following people are prohibited by law from obtaining or possessing a firearm in California:

  • Individuals who have an addiction to narcotics
  • Individuals that have a felony charge on their records from any part of the country
  • People who have been on more than one occasion convicted of violating the state's PC Section 417, which prohibits the carrying of a firearm.
  • People who suffer from mental ailment
  • People who have been sentenced to prison for specific offenses, such as corporal injury to a partner, as defined by California PC Section 273.5.
  • Minors under the age of 18. It's worth noting that in California, anyone under the age of 21 is prohibited from purchasing a weapon

As a result, a felony conviction for aggravated trespass could have an impact on a person's firearms rights. If they previously owned a firearm, they must surrender it as per the law.

Implications on Immigration Status

Aggravated trespass is, for example, an offense with severe immigration consequences. If you're convicted, it will have an impact on your immigration status. As per the country’s immigration statutes, these felonious convictions could call for the deportation of a foreigner from the country. A conviction on the defendant's record would further reduce their chances of being allowed to the country.

There are offenses in California that are classified as inadmissible or subject to deportation. The following are some of them:

  • Aggravated felonies
  • Moral turpitude crimes
  • Criminal offenses involving the use of guns
  • Domestic violence offenses
  • Offenses involving the use or abuse of controlled drugs

If the court considers the details of your case and convicts you of an aggravated offense, the sentence will fall under one of the aggravated crimes listed above. If this occurs and you are an immigrant, you can be certain that it will have a significant impact on your status.

Expungement for California PC 601 Conviction

If you've been charged with aggravated trespassing in the state of California, your priority should be to get the charges dismissed or lessened. However, if this doesn't succeed, you should know whether you will have the opportunity to completely expunge your sentence from your criminal record. It will guarantee that your conviction has no impact on your ability to find work in the future.

The good thing is that under California law, a person guilty of this crime can petition to have their record expunged from their record. He or she should, however, have fulfilled all of the terms imposed by a court when they were placed on probation.

The state of California's expungement legislation is found in PC 1203.4. Expungement frees the offender from any future consequences related to the conviction. This means that members of the public will not be able to see your criminal record once it has been expunged. You'll also not be obligated to tell potential employers about your conviction.

However, if an individual has completed probation, a judge can delete their felony or misdemeanor charge from their record. It's worth noting that if you haven't been charged with another offense, aren't on probation, and haven't served a sentence for another crime, you may be eligible for expungement.

The expungement process can begin once the defendant has completed their court-ordered probation or served their full jail sentence.

Possible Legal Defenses to California Aggravated Trespass Charges

If you're accused of aggravated trespass, you don't have to be guilty. The statute allows you to seek the best qualified criminal defense attorney to assist you with your lawsuit. This action allows you to avoid the heavy fines and unfavorable outcomes described above. A skilled attorney can employ a variety of defense strategies to aggressively dispute your allegations and persuade the court to decrease or dismiss your charges. Below are some of the strategies:

The Threat Was Not Credible

Keep in mind that the menace issued must be genuine enough to make the person being threatened fearful of harm. If the menace was not credible, the offender could be found not guilty and exonerated of the charges. This fact can be used by your attorney to persuade the court that, despite issuing a threat, it was neither harsh nor believable. You may have made a lighthearted threat to the individual without intending to carry it out.

The court jury will not believe the defense arguments without first examining the facts of your case to determine if the threat was serious. If there is a probability that the issued threats were not serious and that the defendant lacked the means to carry out the menace, the court will be forced to dismiss the charges.

There Was No Intent To Instill Fear

One of the elements of this offense that must be met for the defendant to be convicted is the intention to cause fear. You could be cleared of your accusations if you can show that you didn't intend to put the other individual's life or the life of their loved ones in danger. When someone jokingly threatens another, for example, the purpose is never to make the other individual feel frightened. If this is the case, you will not be charged with aggravated trespass.

However, you'll need a clever strategy to persuade the jury that you didn't mean to make the victim afraid, even if you did threaten them.

A professional criminal defense attorney will discredit the prosecutor's claim by demonstrating to the court that the accused's intentions were not as the prosecution claims.

No Intention to Fulfill the Threat

An aggravated trespass crime doesn't stop at the issuance of a threat. The perpetrator should go to their plaintiff's residence or workplace to accomplish the threat. If this did not occur, the defendant would not be found guilty under California Penal Code Section 601. For instance, if 2 persons disagreed about something and one threatened the other. The person who made the threat could follow the complainant to their home or business with the intent to apologize and reconcile.

To pursue this strategy, your lawyer should show the jury that you had noble motives when you entered your complainant's residence or workplace. If you arrived armed or dressed in a way that suggested you were prepared to fight, your objectives would be understood as an intention to execute the threat.

California Aggravated Trespass and Related Crimes

Aggravated trespass is subject to 3 California offenses. These crimes are often charged instead of or in addition to aggravated trespass under Section 601 of the state's Penal Code. The following are the three offenses:

Criminal Threats

Criminal threats are likewise illegal according to California's PC Section 422. If a person threatens to physically harm or kill another individual, they are considered to have made a criminal threat. In this circumstance, the threat ought to be credible enough to cause genuine fear in the other individual, such as dread for their safety or the wellbeing of their immediate family. Criminal threats can be delivered electronically, in writing, or verbally, much like threats in criminal trespass.

California Trespass

Trespassing is illegal in California under Penal Code Section 602. Trespass is defined under the law as entering or residing on another individual's property without authorization. The offense is normally charged as a misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a fine of no more than $1,000.

Trespassing can be defined in a variety of ways in California. Some are common, while others are out of the ordinary. If you're facing trespassing accusations, it's a good idea to work closely with a competent criminal defense attorney. Only he or she can assist you in developing a solid defense to persuade the judge and jury that you were not invading.

Among the defensive tactics that your lawyer can employ in your favor are:

  • That there was no evidence the land in question was private. It's possible that the owners of the residence or workplace had not enclosed it in, or that there were no indications that they had done so. If the land in question is for the public, you cannot be charged with criminal trespass
  • That the owner(s) of the property had granted you access to or remain in the residence or workplace
  • That you have permission to be at that location

California Burglary

Section 459 of the California Penal Code governs the state's burglary laws. Burglary, according to this statute, is defined as accessing another person's house, company, or workplace with the intent to steal or conduct a crime once inside. It's important to note that entering the structure is a must.

Even if the crime or theft did not occur, you will still be convicted in court.

In California, there are 2 types of burglaries: first-degree and second-degree burglaries. If an individual enters another person's residence to commit a felony, they are convicted of first-degree burglary. Second-degree burglary, on the other hand, entails breaking into another person's workplace or any property other than their residence.

First-degree burglaries are always charged as felonies, with a maximum punishment of four years in prison. Second-degree burglaries are frequently wobbler offenses, meaning the offender can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony. If a defendant is charged with a felony, they face a maximum term of 3 years in jail. A misdemeanor charge usually carries a less severe penalty of up to 1 year in prison.

Criminal threats are usually wobblers, meaning the prosecution can prosecute it as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the circumstances. If you're charged with a felony, you could face a maximum term of 4 years in jail, as well as other harsh repercussions.

Find a Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Being convicted of aggravated trespass can have long-term consequences in your life. You could lose your job, be subjected to social stigma, or even go to jail. You could also suffer financially as a result of the hefty fines. There is a possibility that you didn't intend to commit the act or frighten the victim. Depending on the facts of your case, a skilled criminal defense attorney can help have your charges dismissed or reduced.

If you or a loved one is charged with an aggravated trespass offense, you should seek a lawyer who is well-versed in the California legal system. At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we have a history of expertise representing individuals facing criminal charges like aggravated trespass in the Riverside area. Feel free to contact us today at 951-946-6366.