California statutes recognize and uphold the sanctity of someone’s privately owned property. Therefore, it is illegal to go into or stay on another person's property without their consent. If you do so, you could be prosecuted for trespassing according to California PC § 602. There are numerous instances of trespassing that are covered by this state law. Some of them are common while some remain unusual. Despite this, they all follow the same core principles.

We welcome you to get in touch with Darwish Law if you or a loved one has been charged with trespassing and needs legal counsel in Santa Ana.

The Definition of Trespass Under California Penal Code 602

PC 602 (along with related provisions of the California PC) defines over thirty illegal trespassing acts.

The most common practices that California trespass laws forbid include:

  • Going into another person's property to cause damage to it
  • Entering another person's property to disrupt or tamper with business activities carried out there
  • Unauthorized entry into and "occupation" of another person's property
  • Remaining on private property even after being ordered to leave

There are additional, more specific, and unusual forms of trespassing in California, such as:

  • Extracting soil, stone, or dirt without authorization from the owner of the property
  • Removing oysters as well as other shellfish from another person's property
  • Refusing to be screened at a courthouse or airport

As a result, California's legal interpretation of "trespass" is exceptionally complex. However, the definition of the majority of California trespass offenses includes a few specific "elements of the crime." In most cases, trespassing does not call for breaking into and entering the property.

For you to be found guilty of the crime of California trespass, the prosecution must establish these elements. They include:

  • You intentionally entered another person's property
  • You specifically intended to violate the owner's property rights
  • You did infringe the owner's property rights (you did this by destroying their property, you interfered with their business)

We'll take a closer look at these terms to fully understand what they mean and their relation to the definition of trespassing.


Willfully means acting purposely or deliberately. When someone acts willfully it does not particularly mean that they planned on breaking the law. It only implies that you had intentions to perpetrate the act you perpetrated.

Specific Intent

This refers to a certain state of mind. Whenever someone acts with specific intent, it shows that they not only intended their act but also precisely intended the repercussions of their acts.

Definite Property Damage to business or property rights

You will be found guilty of damaging another person's property, or getting in the way of their business if the prosecution proves that real interference or damage occurred.

To put it another way, if you only got into the property to destroy or obstruct business activities but you failed to succeed, you will not be criminally culpable for the crime of trespass.

Occupation of Property

One form of trespass that is most commonly prosecuted is occupying another person's property without their permission.

The term occupy implies remaining at a certain place constantly for a noteworthy period.

Penalties For California Trespass Crimes

California trespassing crimes can be prosecuted as infractions, misdemeanors, and in some rare cases, as felonies.

Penalties For California Trespassing Offenses Charged as Infractions Under PEN 602.8

You could be charged with an infraction under California PEN 602.8 especially:

  • When you deliberately entered another person's land without their consent, and
  • That property had "no trespassing" signage put up between stretches of not less than three for one mile, or was surrounded by a fence

Penalties for an infraction include:

  • Fines of up to $75 if that was your first offense
  • Fines of up to $250 if that was your second offense on that same property

If you commit a subsequent offense on that same land, you'll face misdemeanor charges.

Penalties For California Misdemeanor Trespass Charges Under PEN 602

Many trespassing charges are prosecuted as misdemeanors. Possible penalties could entail:

  • Summary or misdemeanor probationary terms
  • Being jailed for approximately six months
  • Fines that could amount to $1,000

Some forms of trespassing charges are prosecuted as misdemeanors, for instance, when the defendant refused to leave the property when he or she was asked to do so by the owner, carrying a possible county jail term of one year.

Penalties For California Felony or Aggravated Trespass

According to California PEN 601, felony criminal trespass happens when the defendant:

  • Issues a plausible threat to gravely injure someone else, making the victim worry for his or her safety, or his or her family's safety
  • Within thirty days after they have issued the threat, go into the victim's workplace or property with the intent to execute the threat

Felony trespass is a wobbler offense. This means that California prosecutors could pursue the charge as either a felony, based on the facts surrounding the act as well as your criminal background.

If the aggravated trespass offense is charged as a misdemeanor, you risk facing a one-year jail term and/or maximum fines of $2,000.

If the aggravated trespass crime is charged as a felony, the defendant risks facing sixteen months, two years, or three years in jail. You could also face a formal or felony probationary term.

Expunging Your Criminal Record After Being Convicted of a California Trespassing Offense

You could be able to have your criminal record expunged if you complete your probationary term if you had been sentenced to one.

However, the court could refuse to grant your expungement if you violated the terms of your probation, or if you failed to comply with the terms of the probation.

Fighting Trespassing Charges

There are several legal arguments that a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney could use to defend you and attempt to have your California trespassing charges reduced or dismissed.

Prospective legal defenses could include the following depending on the facts surrounding the matter as well as the section of the California PEN under which you have been charged.

You had a Legal Right to be on That Property

You can't be found guilty of trespassing if you did have a legitimate right to be on that property. Participation in labor organizing operations or legal unions is the most frequent cause of someone's legal right to be on another person's property.

If you were present on the premises since you were participating in "constitutionally permitted activity," for example free expression permitted by the First Amendment of the Constitution, a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer can also assist you in proving if you had a legal right to be there.

You had Permission to Access the Property

If you're being charged with "occupying" someone else's property without consent, you could be capable of proving that you aren't criminally liable if you first obtained the owner's authorization to access the property. To put it another way, you're not guilty of trespassing if you accessed with permission but afterward "occupied" the land (i.e., stayed on the property for a considerable duration) without permission.

If the owner of the land specifically requested that you vacate, nevertheless, you must comply to avert criminal prosecution—unless you were participating in a labor organization or another activity that is protected by the constitution.

You did not Occupy the Property

To be found guilty of criminal trespassing for "occupying" another person's property, you have to deny the property's owner its utilization or enjoyment, and you need to do that for a considerable amount of time over an extended period.

Therefore, you might be able to effectively claim that you're not guilty since you did not access and inhabit the property if you have been accused of trespassing for a short period on another person's estate without their consent.

You didn't Hinder or Impede the Operations that were Going on at the Property or Business

If you have been accused of violating California PEN 602, which prohibits entering another person's property to interfere with or obstruct business operations, you should have done so. If you did not, you did not engage in criminal trespass.

Therefore, just carrying out actions that the owner of the property "frowned upon" does not constitute trespass. Unless the actions hampered or interfered with the operations on the property.

The Property was not Fenced or did not have Signs

You could be charged with trespassing as an infraction if you got into the property when it was enclosed or fenced or had signs put up at regular intervals. The signs have to be no less than 3 signs for each mile along the perimeter of the property, as well as at each trail and road leading into the property.

You could have your charges dropped if the property did not have a fence surrounding it, or if the signages had not been put up at the intervals where they should’ve been.

Related Offenses

Certain California offenses are prosecuted instead of or along with California trespassing offenses. A few of these offenses include:

Burglary Under California PEN 459

California burglary statute applies under California PEN 459  you access another person's property to commit a felony offense or a petty theft while inside.

Therefore, for instance, you can be prosecuted for both felony trespass and burglary when you enter someone else's property having the intent to violate PEN 601, felony trespass.

Criminal trespass, nevertheless, could be considered a "lesser included charge" of burglary charges, based on the nature of the arrest. In this case, only a single one of these violations can result in punishment, and not both of them.

California burglary offenses become felonies if they take place on a person's property and are considered a wobbler when it occurs in another form of structure. For burglaries that are classified as misdemeanors but occur in residences, the maximum prison term varies from a one-year jail term to six years in California state prison.

Vandalism Under California PC 594

California vandalism is prohibited under PEN 594, which forbids altering, destroying, or causing damage to another person's property. The prosecution could prosecute you with both vandalism and trespassing when you damage another person's property while being on there illegally.

The severity of the punishments for vandalism in California is determined by how much property was damaged. If the damages were worth just under $400, it is considered a misdemeanor; nonetheless, if the damages were valued at $400 or maybe more, it is considered a wobbler offense.

California Theft Offenses

The prosecution could charge you with trespassing in addition to one of numerous  California theft charges when you access someone else's property without permission in contravention to California's trespassing laws and steal something while you're on the property. The particular conditions of the crime would define which theft charge applies, such as grand or petty theft charges.

California Domestic Violence Crimes

California criminal trespass charges are regularly brought in conjunction with several domestic violence statutes. For instance, California's stalking laws, PEN 646.9, outlaws intimidating or threatening someone else to the extent that the victim feels threatened for his/her safety. Additionally, making believable, violent threatening remarks against another individual is against California criminal threats laws under PEN 422.

One of the domestic violence offenses that could be charged with in addition to criminal trespassing is stalking. If you have been accused of one of these offenses along with illegally accessing the place in which that individual lives or works, you may face trespass accusations in addition to allegations of domestic violence.

Trespassing as a Plea Bargain

When negotiating a plea deal, it could make logical sense in certain circumstances for your criminal defense lawyer to suggest or demand the filing of a California criminal trespassing charge. A trespassing charge, for instance, could take the place of a domestic violence burglary charge.

It could be advantageous for the defendant since a conviction for trespass does not have the same societal stigma attached to it as more serious crimes, and typically carries less punishment.

Implications of a Trespass Conviction on Immigration

When negotiating for a trespass guilty plea to trespass, non-US citizens defendants must exercise caution. This is because trespassing could be deemed a "crime that involves moral turpitude if it is done to violate another person's property or ownership rights, or if it is done to obstruct how operations are performed on that property.

A defendant's immigration status could suffer severely as a result of crimes that involve moral turpitude. This does not imply that noncitizens never should negotiate a trespass plea. Some types of trespassing, like entering and staying on the property with no permission from the owner and with no intention of causing damage to that property, aren't crimes of moral depravity.

Before entering a plea of guilty to a California PEN 602 trespass offense, it's crucial to speak with a lawyer who is familiar with California's criminal as well as immigration laws.

Frequently Asked Questions On California Trespassing Laws

At Darwish Law, we frequently get questions from people accused of criminal trespass. A few of these are:

What If I Was Accused of Trespassing For Exercising My Freedom Under the First Amendment or Protesting?

If your acts interfered with business operations and you had been on the business's premises, it could be regarded as trespassing under California trespass laws. On the other hand, you might have a good defense when you didn't damage property, meddle with business operations, or otherwise violate someone else's property ownership rights.

What If I Wasn't Aware that I was not permitted to be on the Property?

This is also based on the specifics of your situation. You could contend that you didn't act knowingly if you weren't aware of or couldn't have reasonably understood that you weren't allowed to access the property.

Prosecutors need to demonstrate that the property or land had certain warning signs placed at defined intervals throughout the property that showed your access was forbidden to show you committed some form of trespassing.

Can You Get Shot in California for Trespassing?

The homeowner has the constitutional right to shoot a burglar if they break into their home. The "Castle Doctrine," as it is known by lawmakers and attorneys, is a provision of California law that shields people from legal action when they shoot a person who has broken into their private property. The law is based on California PEN 198.5.

Shooting a person who breaks into your home without permission is lawful if you have a valid fear of serious death or bodily harm. However, experts advise merely shooting a shot to warn and to urge the invader to exit the property when you don't think that they plan to hurt you or anyone else.

Find a Property Crimes Defense Attorney Near Me

If you or a loved one has been accused of trespassing crimes in Santa Ana, CA, you should get in touch with our skilled criminal defense attorneys at Darwish Law to discuss the specifics of your case as well as your legal alternatives. With our extensive combined expertise, we know how to develop a strong defense strategy and get the best result for your case. Call 714-887-4810 to reach us.