Criminal Trespassing Explained

At a basic level, the term "trespassing" is defined as entering another person’s property without their permission. Under the law, however, there must also be some level of intent to the act of trespassing. If a person simply wanders onto a property, then they have not necessarily committed a crime or a civil law violation. However, if a person climbs over a fence or ignores posted "No Trespassing" sign, then their actions demonstrate intent. Criminal trespassing charges usually involve other wrongful acts and the intent to commit them. This includes criminal acts like burglary, vandalism, or invasion of privacy.

It's important to note that trespassing is both a crime and a civil wrong in the state of California, which means that you can be arrested for criminal trespass if you and a group of friends camp out on a property that is clearly marked as private or off-limits to the public. Additionally, property owners have the option to file claims against trespassers to collect for damages, even if a crime wasn’t committed.

FAQ: Trespassing Laws in California

California's Penal Code lists more than 20 different examples of what is considered criminal trespassing Below, we cover the basics of California’s criminal trespassing laws:

Question #1: What Is the Statutory Definition of Criminal Trespassing?

A: Refusing or failing to remove oneself from a property or structure that belongs to or is lawfully occupied by another person and not open to the general public, after being requested to leave by the owner, their agent, or a law enforcement officer acting on behalf of the property owner, the owner's agent, or the person in lawful possession of the property.

Question #2: What Are Some Common Examples of Criminal Trespassing?

A: Common examples of criminal trespassing include:

  • Cutting down, destroying, or injuring any kind of trees or plants that are standing or growing on another person’s property
  • Digging, taking, or carrying away earth soil, or stone from any lot situated within the limits of any incorporated city without the permission of the owner
  • Entering any lands owned by any other person where oysters or other shellfish are planted or growing
  • Injuring, gathering, or carrying away oysters or shellfish planted, growing, or on another person’s lands, whether it is covered by water or not, without the permission of the owner or legal occupant

Question #3: What Are the Elements of Criminal Trespassing?

A: The specific elements depend on the type of trespassing alleged. In general, the elements of criminal trespassing can be simplified as follows:

  • The defendant willfully entered a property belonging to someone else, without their permission
  • The defendant entered the property with the intent to interfere with the rightful owner's property

Question #4: What Is Aggravated Trespassing?

A: One commits an act of aggravated trespassing if they make a credible threat of bodily harm against another person and enter their property or place of employment within 30 days of the threat, with the intent to inflict harm.

Question #5: What Are the Legal Defenses to Fight Criminal Trespassing Charges?

A: Common legal defenses for these types of charges include:

  • The property wasn't clearly marked as private or off limits to the general public
  • You had the right to be on the property
  • You were given permission by the owner or legal occupant to be on the property

Consult with Our Dedicated Criminal Trespassing Attorneys Today

Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP is ready to help defend your rights against criminal trespassing charges . We have the extensive resources you need in your corner to prevent you from facing tough penalties that can negatively impact your future. Whether that results in a lesser charge, reduced penalties, or a complete dismissal, we are prepared to fiercely advocate for you at each phase of the legal process.

Give us a call today at (800) 462-7160 or complete our online form to set up a free case consultation with our seasoned legal professionals.