Protesters and Criminal Trespassing Charges
SeaWorld is not a stranger to protests. Each summer, many animal rights activists line up in front of the San Diego attraction armed with megaphones and posters. Earlier this summer, SeaWorld asked the San Diego County Superior Court to issue a restraining order against at least three of these protestors. The protesters who were named in the petition have a lengthy history of advocating for animal rights. In many cases, their protests have caused them some legal problems. In California, one legal issue that protestors often face is trespassing. Trespassing can have both civil and criminal consequences.
Civil consequences can include restraining orders, fines, and restitution. SeaWorld, for example, asked the San Diego Superior Court to issue a restraining order because the protesters were on private property and refused to leave. If the protesters had damaged any of the SeaWorld property, the San Diego attraction could file a civil lawsuit for damages.
Many of the SeaWorld protesters had previously been charged with criminal trespass in California. Consequences of civil trespassing are generally more frustrating than they are significant. A criminal conviction for trespassing, however, has the ability to change your life forever. If you have been charged with criminal trespassing in California it is important to hire an attorney to defend you. Contact our San Diego office today to learn about how we can help you with your criminal case.
What is Criminal Trespassing in California?
California’s primary criminal trespassing law can be found in Penal Code Section 602 PC. The statute actually lists approximately 20 different behaviors that can be charged as the crime of criminal trespassing. However, the crime of trespassing can be broadly defined as entering and/or remaining on another person’s property without permission.
Just because you are arrested for criminal trespassing in California does not automatically mean that you will be convicted of the crime. The prosecutor handling your case will be required to prove that you are guilty of each essential element of the crime. If they cannot prove that you are guilty of each element beyond a reasonable doubt then you cannot be convicted of criminal trespass. A criminal case against you will only be successful if the prosecution can establish:
- You willfully entered property (land, building, structure) that belonged to another person;
- You did not that the property owner’s consent to be on the property; and
- You intended to interfere with the property or refused to leave when asked.
What are Some Examples of Trespassing in California?
Penal Code 602 PC lists a variety of actions and behaviors that can be considered criminal trespass. Each offense has slightly different essential elements. This means that the specific part of the criminal statute that you are accused of violating will matter. The prosecution will be required to prove the essential elements of the specific type of criminal trespass that you are accused of committing.
Examples of criminal trespass in California include:
- Cutting down, destroying, taking, or injuring wood or timber on another person’s property;
- Maliciously tearing down, damaging, or destroying a sign on another person’s property;
- Entering property belonging to another person when “no trespassing” signs are posted;
- Willfully tearing down, opening, or destroying a fence on another person’s property and leaving it open without the owner’s consent;
- Building fires on another person’s property when “no trespassing” signs are posted;
- Entering the property of another person with the intent to interfere with the property owner’s right to use and enjoy their property;
- Entering property of another person without permission and refusing to leave when you are asked to do so; and
- Driving a vehicle on another person’s property without permission.
This is not an exhaustive list. Several other behaviors can be (and are) considered criminal trespass.
What are the Consequences of Criminal Trespass?
The penalties associated with criminal trespass depend on the severity of the crime you are accused of committing. Generally, criminal trespass is either charged as an infraction or a misdemeanor. If you are found guilty of an infraction you will be required to pay up to $100 in fines. If you are found guilty of a misdemeanor you can face up to six months in jail and be required to pay up to $1,000 in fines.
Criminal trespassing charges can be more serious. The crime will be aggravated if you make a credible threat of bodily harm to another person and then (within 30 days of making that threat) show up on their property with the intent to carry it out. Aggravated criminal trespassing can be a misdemeanor or a felony. Misdemeanor aggravated trespass carries a possible sentence of up to 12 months in jail and fines of up to $2,000. Felony aggravated trespass carries a possible sentence of up to three years in prison.
Fighting Charges of Criminal Trespassing in California
If you are charged with criminal trespass in California it is important to speak with a criminal defense attorney. The prosecution will present evidence to support their claim that you violated the law. When you hire a San Diego attorney to handle your case, he will present evidence to (1) support the argument that you are innocent, and (2) undermine the prosecution’s case. Your San Diego criminal defense attorney will argue any defense that may be appropriate for your specific case. Defenses to criminal trespass in California can include:
- You had permission to be on the property;
- You are the owner of the property;
- You were falsely accused of being on another’s property;
- You did not know that you were unlawfully on another person’s property;
- You did not interfere with the property; and
- You did not occupy the property.
If you are facing criminal charges for trespassing in California contact our San Diego office today. It is important to get started on your defense as soon as possible. Our attorneys will tenaciously defend you and fight to have the charges against you dismissed. Call us today to learn more.
Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, APC
1230 Columbia Street Suite 565
San Diego, CA 92101