One may think that trespassing involves crossing to another person’s land or property. That general point of view is good, but there is so much more that involves trespassing. There are several instances where you could be accused of trespassing. For example, when you are told to leave private property, and refuse.
You could face trespassing charges when you threaten to hurt someone physically and then enter their workplace or home to hurt them. If you enter another person's unused garage without their consent and setting up a sleeping place in the garage, it is a trespass crime.
If you or a loved one faces trespass charges, you want to contact an experienced Orange County criminal lawyer as early as possible. Seeking legal help early enough could result in your charges being reduced or dismissed.
Orange County Trespass Laws
Many people regard trespass as entering land or property without the owner’s permission. The definition is just a basic understanding of trespass. Wandering or strolling on another person’s property cannot in itself be called a crime. However, defying a ‘no trespass’ sign or scaling a fence is in itself a crime or civil wrong.
Many times the trespass crimes involve other wrongful acts like vandalism, burglary, or hurting someone. Apart from these, there are several other reasons why you may face trespass crime charges. For example, when you and your friends light up a bonfire on someone’s property, or a property that is considered private, or the place is off-limits.
Another example is when someone injures, cuts down, or destroys a plant within another person’s land. Driving a private car without the owner’s consent can also be considered a trespass crime. A person may also file a claim of trespass to collect funds for damages, whether the accused is guilty or not.
Penalties of the Trespass Crime in California
The trespass crime charges can be classified under three different charges, misdemeanors, felony and aggravated trespass. Below is an explanation of each of the penalties.
According to California’s state law, trespass crime is a misdemeanor, resulting in serving a six-month jail term or paying a $1000 fine. You could also face both of these penalties. When a crime is considered a California misdemeanor, it means that the jail-term cannot exceed a county jail year. It also means that the crime is severe than an infraction, but the offense is less severe than a felony.
So there is a possibility that some trespass crimes are misdemeanors. As mentioned earlier, one can face up to six months in county jail or a fine of $1000. Moreover, an offense may result in infraction charges and penalties of a small fee. An infraction is a violation of California’s justice system, and it is not considered a crime compared to a misdemeanor or a felony. An offense can never impose a jail term, and the maximum sentence one could face is a fine of $250.
When charged as a misdemeanor, the accused may be slapped with a county jail term of up to a year or may face misdemeanor probation. However, if you face a felony charge, you may also face up to 3 years of a county jail term or felony probation.
When you threaten to hurt someone physically and then enter their workplace or home without their consent, you may face aggravated trespass charges. Aggravated trespass is a more severe case than a misdemeanor, and it may be considered a felony. When charged with an aggravated felony trespass, the crime could be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.
If convicted with a felony trespass in the worst-case scenario, you may face immigration or gun rights consequences. However, if you face a felony conviction trespass crime, you can seek to expunge after your probation or jail term is completed.
So what is to expunge? To expunge is when the defendant raises a petition where it pleads for the withdrawal of the case, thus withdrawing any harmful immigration or gun rights consequences. Also, the trespass crime will not be shown to employers if one is allowed to expunge. This petition is known as the expungement petition.
How a Criminal Law Attorney in Orange State Can Help
Since you already know the kind of penalties you can face if you are convicted, you don’t have to worry since you are not entirely unlucky. An experienced criminal law attorney in Orange state can help you by coming up with legal defenses to reduce the charges laid on you or help you dismiss your case.
The attorney may raise some of the below legal defenses points to help you fight the trespass crime.
- You had full rights to be on the property
- There was no sign like the ‘no trespass’ sign, or the property was not fenced.
- You had full consent from the owner (or any other authority over the property) to be on the property
- You did not occupy the property, interfere with the property’s activities, or obstruct any property activities
- You did not interfere with the activities in the property or obstructed the business
You Had a Right to Occupy the Said Property
You can never be convicted if you possessed the full legal rights or permission to be on the said property. The most legit and popular legal rights are when someone is involved in lawful unions that permit you to access the property’s interior. If you are in any labor organizing community, you can have legal rights on the land or property.
For example, John is working under a construction workers' union that permits him to inspect buildings’ safety. If the building owner asks John to leave the site and John refuses to leave, John is not guilty of a trespass crime since his construction union gave him the legal rights to occupy or be on the land.
In this case, an experienced criminal attorney will help you determine whether you had any right on the property in question.
You Had The Owner’s Consent (Or Any Relevant Authority)
If you or a loved one face a conviction for entering another person's property without their permission, you could prove that you are innocent if you previously had the owner's consent. In simple words, if someone were on the property with the owner’s consent but then occupied the property for a long time with no permission, you are innocent of trespass. A skilled criminal lawyer will help you present this fact.
However, if the owner instructed you to go, you will be guilty of trespassing when you refused to leave. If the owner requires you to go, you should immediately leave unless you have a constitutionally protected mandate to be on the property.
You Never Occupied the Property
For you to be guilty of the trespass crime for occupying a certain property, you should be guilty of depriving the owner of the right to enjoy their property somehow. You would be guilty of occupying the property for a long continuous period.
So if innocent of these crimes, you can argue that you did not occupy the property, and you never deprived the owner of full enjoyment of their property.
You Did Not Interfere With Any Activity
If guilty of breaking penal code 602, you must have entered a property intending to obstruct or interfere with the property’s activities. Besides, you should have interrupted or obstructed the business, but if you haven’t, then you are not guilty of the criminal trespass.
It means that activities like being frowned on by the business owner will never make you guilty. However, if your activities interfered with the business's actions, you could be guilty of the criminal trespass crime. A skilled lawyer will help you showcase that you did not obstruct the business, or that you did not interfere with the building’s activities.
The Property Was Not Enclosed, and There Was No sign
In some cases, as we had discussed earlier on this post, you may as well be charged with trespass if you saw a sign, for example, the ‘no trespass’ but went ahead and to enter someone else’s property. You may also be convicted with criminal trespass if you climbed over a fence to get onto the property.
However, if you can prove beyond doubt, the property wasn’t fenced appropriately in all the right places, your charges may be dismissed. Also, if the ‘no trespass’ sign was not in the right places, you can prove this, and your charges may be dismissed as well.
Offenses Related to the Crime Trespass
California criminal trespass charges are sometimes filed with other criminal offenses. Below are some common crimes that go hand in hand with the trespass crime.
Under the penal code of 459 PC in California, burglary is entering a residential, commercial, or locked car with the intention of theft or any other felony once inside the vehicle. If you are guilty of a commercial building burglary, you can face a punishment of up to 3 years in jail or prison.
Burglary of a residential structure is punishable by law with a sentence of up to 6 years in jail or prison. You will be guilty of the crime of whether the criminal intent was reached or not.
The California burglary law involves the first degree and second degree. The first degree where a burglary has been done on residence structures while second-degree burglary involves burglary is on other facilities that include stores and businesses.
However, shoplifting is different from burglary. According to California laws, shoplifting is when a person enters a business with the intent of stealing goods worth $950 or less.
The elements of a burglary crimes are as follows;
- The accused enters a building or a certain room in the building. However this is not limited to buildings, locked cars or even structures can count. This elements does not depend on the proof of committing the crime.
- At the time of entering any of these places, the accused had an intention of committing a California felony or petty theft. The felony may involve the crime of wanting to harm the owner of the property or the property itself. Petty theft involves stealing the property.
- The prosecuter must also prove the following is true
- The property that the accused stole or had an intention of stealing has a value of up to $950.
- The structure or the building the defendant is accused of entering is a commercial structure or building.
According to California laws, the first-degree burglary, known as residential burglary, is considered a felony under California laws. If guilty of first-degree burglary, you will face up to 2, 4, or 6 years in state imprisonment.
On the other hand, second-degree burglary is a commercial burglary. This crime is also known as a wobbler, according to California law. A wobbler, according to California law, can be charged as both a misdemeanor or a felony. If the crime is as a wobbler, second-degree burglary can be charged as either of the crimes.
If the second-degree burglary is charged as a felony, you may face up to 16 years or three years in jail. If the crime is a misdemeanor, you can face up to a year in county jail.
Legal Defenses of Burglary
To help you fight burglary charges, an experienced California criminal lawyer will help you identify some of the best legal defenses claims so that you can fight. For instance, the lawyer might bring up these defenses to assist you in fighting burglary charges;
- You did not intend to commit the crime when you entered the building.
- You stole things that belonged to you or believed that you had a legitimate claim on those goods.
- It was a case of mistaken identity.
A skilled criminal lawyer will help you determine the best legal defense you can use to fight burglary. Your lawyer can help to minimize the punishment or sentence or allow you to dismiss the charges laid against you altogether.
In the California statute penal code, 594PC vandalism is maliciously damaging property. According to California law, vandalism is mostly a misdemeanor if the damages amount to $400 or less; however, if the damages amount to $400 and more, the vandalism charges are considered a felony.
Most people would tend to think vandalism involves children brought to the juvenile with the crime of smashing other people’s mailboxes. However, vandalism is far more severe, but it also involves some crimes you would have never imagined.
- When you argue with your husband and end up breaking a piece of the expensive furniture you bought together, this also may be a crime of vandalism
- ‘keying’ in somebody’s car as an act of revenge for something wrong they did to you
- Writing your name or writing something else on wet cement without the owner’s consent
Vandalism is mostly considered a severe crime and causes penalties of up to one year in jail or huge fines.
California Theft Crimes
This crime involves receiving, selling, concealing, or buying items that are known to be stolen. The offense can cause a sentence of up to three years in prison. Prosecutors may file a theft charge as a misdemeanor or as a felony. According to California law, if you help a friend hide some stolen goods or receive the goods as a gift, it is considered a crime.
For example, if a friend comes and gives you stolen jewelry to conceal it for them, and then go ahead to receive and hide the stolen item. When you buy a cellphone knowing that it was from somebody else, you can be charged theft crimes.
Stolen property is property obtained from stealing, for instance, embezzlement. Also, property from a robbery incidence or a burglary incident is as a stolen good. Property is stolen through extortion if obtained from another person with their consent. However, the person must have given it due to forceful actions or give it out of fear. You can only be guilty if proven that you knew the item is stolen. If you did not know, then you are not guilty of the crime.
For example, Kevin, who is 19, bought a car on Craiglist, a brand new shiny Porsche. He gets the car at a bargain price of $3,000, and it turns out that the car was stolen two weeks ago.
There is a high probability that Kevin never knew that the car is stolen; thus, he bought it thinking it was from the owner. In this case, Kevin will not be guilty of theft.
Find an Orange County Criminal Lawyer Near Me
When faced with trespass or related charges, you could be frustrated, especially if you do not know what to do about the situation. These charges could negatively impact your future, and that is why you should hire a professional lawyer. Trying to fight your charges on your own could cause further losses.
A criminal lawyer could help you look deeper into your case and see your case’s possibilities to be dismissed or the charges reduced. Every crime attracts specific penalties, and your lawyer could use legal defenses to help reduce or dismiss your charges. You can reach us at 714-831-1858 to discuss your case and build a defense strategy with an attorney.