The crime of aggravated trespass is defined under California’s PC 601. Under this statute, aggravated trespass is regarded as making credible threats of injuring someone physically then entering his or her workplace or home without consent within thirty days of the threats. The crime is also referred to as trespass after threatening someone or felony trespass. In California, some acts can be regarded as trespassing under the law. Actions like entering a residential building without the owner’s consent, playing loud music, and interfering with legal business operating in a restricted place, are forms of trespassing. If the law enforcers discover that you threatened to injure another person then entered their home or place of work without consent, you could be found guilty under this statute. If you are facing aggravated trespass charges, The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm can help you create the best defense against your charges.

Elements of Aggravated Trespass Case

You may violate the California PC 601 without even realizing it. The definition of aggravated trespass under PC 601 is broad, and many offenses fall under it. For instance, you may tell your former lover that you are going to make her pay for leaving you. If you access her residence or workplace within thirty days of making this statement, she may accuse you of aggravated trespass. Charges under PC 601 may apply if you threaten your neighbor for being nosy and loud and break into their home within thirty days. You could be guilty of trespass if you threaten to beat up a person and then go to their home or business within thirty days.

If the prosecutor accuses you of aggravated trespass, he or she must prove some elements before the court that you are guilty. The elements he or she must prove are:

  • You issued a credible threat of killing or inflicting significant bodily harm on the victim

  • You intended to cause the victim reasonable fear by making the threat. This means that you wanted the victim to fear for their safety or the safety of their family.

  • You illegally accessed the victim’s residence or their place of work within thirty days of issuing the threat. It should be evident that the motive of accessing the victim’s residence or their place of work was to execute the threat

For the prosecuting officer to prove that you are guilty of aggravated trespass, the prosecutor does not have to prove that you acted on purpose or wilfully.

This definition of aggravated trespass and the elements will not apply if the person who issued the threat entered their property, workplace, or residence. The definition of aggravated trespass under California law is not clear because of the subjective terms used therein. For instance, the law does not provide a clear definition of what qualifies as a credible threat. The law does not define what qualifies as significant bodily injury and reasonable fear.

You Made Credible Threats to the Target

You may make threats to your alleged target through writing, verbally, or digitally. Your threats may be credible or implied if they aim at making your target fear for their safety or immediate family’s safety. It should be evident that you went ahead executing or trying to execute those threats. The prosecutor must prove that you planned to inflict severe body injuries on another person. Severe bodily injuries may include serious disfigurement, broken bones, loss of consciousness, or a wound that needs extensive stitching.

Intention to Cause Fear

The prosecutor must explain the facts and circumstances surrounding your aggravated trespass clearly before the court. The analysis from their points can help the court to determine whether your threats made the alleged target feel that their security is threatened. The prosecutor must present the following information to the jury:

  • Your relationship with the suspected target

  • Your previous meetings with the alleged target

  • The target’s reaction towards your threat

  • An eyewitness who was present when you made threats to the target

  • Your conduct or pattern of behavior after the threats

  • Your verbal messages to the target

The jury will analyze this information to determine whether the alleged target suffered any reasonable fear. Even if your threats did not make the target behave like they were in a panic, they could have feared for the security of their family. The family could be any person living in the target’s home like a child, parent, spouse, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling related to him or her by marriage or blood.

Accessing the Victim’s Residence of Place of Work

For the prosecutor to charge you with aggravated trespass, they must provide the evidence that you entered the victim’s home or place of work without consent within thirty days of making your threats. He or she must also prove that you were aware that the target was at home or place of work, and you tried to locate them intending to execute your threats. You may face felony trespass charges if the prosecutor convinces the court to believe that you intended to implement the threats you made when you entered the target place.

If the place you entered was your business, workplace, or residence, you can’t face felony trespass charges. If you entered a property that you have consent to, you can’t face the charges under PC 601. People who are authorized by the California Labor Relations Act or those attached to labor union activities are also exempted from felony trespassing.

Penalties to Aggravated Trespass

It’s a wobbler crime under California law if you are found guilty of violating PC 601. You may be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, you could face a fine of $ 2,000 maximum, a sentence of up to one year in county jail, or misdemeanor summary probation. If you are convicted of a felony, you could face a fine of $ 10,000, a sentence of up to three years in county jail, or a felony formal probation.

Aggravated Trespass Conviction and Your Gun Rights

Aggravated trespass charges could negatively affect your gun rights in California. The privileges could be revoked depending on whether you are convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor charge. The people who are not allowed to possess or acquire a gun in California include:

  • People below 18 years

  • Mentally disabled persons

  • People charged with misdemeanor crimes such as corporal injury on a spouse PC 273.5

  • People arrested twice or more for brandishing a weapon PC 417

  • Anyone accused of any felony crime

  • Those addicted to narcotic

The Immigration Consequences of an Aggravated Trespass Conviction

If you are charged with aggravated trespass, you could also face negative immigration consequences. In California, criminal convictions can lead to your deportation or being marked as inadmissible for non-citizens. The inadmissible or deportable offenses in California include:

  • Domestic violence crimes

  • Firearms crimes

  • Controlled substances crimes

  • Aggravated felonies

  • Crimes of moral turpitude

Expungement of the Criminal Conviction

On the other hand, if you are charged with aggravated trespass, you may get an expungement on completing probation terms and conditions. California PC 1203.4 releases the convicts from all disabilities and penalties arising from aggravated trespass conviction.

An expungement will release you from all the disabilities and penalties that may arise due to the criminal conviction. After the expungement of your criminal conviction, you don’t have to disclose the conviction even if someone enquires about your criminal history. After the expungement of your criminal conviction, it’ll no longer show up in your background checks. Therefore, potential employers will not have a basis for discriminating against you based on your past conviction. You can still be able to land your dream job despite the criminal conviction.

For you to qualify for an expungement of your criminal conviction, you must have completed probation successfully. You must also have complied with all the requirements of probation. You should not be currently facing charges for a criminal offense, serving a sentence for another crime, or on probation. After an aggravated trespass conviction, you can apply for expungement immediately after completing the probation or the imposed jail time. You will need your attorney to guide you through the application of an expungement.

Defenses to Aggravated Trespass

If you are facing aggravated trespass charges, a competent defense attorney can help you create a good defense against your case. The defenses he or she can employ include:

No Intention to Execute the Threats

Under California law, you can only be guilty of aggravated trespass if the prosecutor can prove to the jury and the judge that you trespassed intentionally to execute your threats. You can fight these charges by claiming that you had not credible intentions to implement the threats. You may also argue that you only entered the business, workplace, or home of the alleged target to apologize and not to execute the intimidation.

No Credible Threat

You are only guilty of aggravated trespass under PC 601 if you made a credible threat to cause severe physical harm to your target. However, your attorney may argue that although you made threats, you did not cause reasonable panic to the target for his or her life or that of close family members, and you did so jokingly.

Miranda Violation

Before the police interrogate you about an aggravated trespass offense, they must first read Miranda rights to you. You can also choose to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination or wait for the police to read the Miranda rights under California law. The police statements are presented to the court as proof during your arrest could otherwise be dismissed if they fail to read Miranda rights.

Unstable Mental Status

If you are convicted of aggravated trespass, the prosecutor must prove that you were in your full capacity when carrying out the threats on the alleged target. Unstable mental status can be sufficient proof to acquit you of aggravated trespass crime. Your medical records would come in handy at such a time to ascertain this defense.

Plea Bargaining

Under California law, a plea bargain can be used by the court to charge you and allow you to plead no contest or plead guilty to a lesser sentence. This is done in exchange for acquitting severe conviction of aggravated trespass. Your attorney can negotiate a plea bargain if aggravated trespass charges against you cannot be denied. If the attorney cannot refute allegations of aggravated trespass crime against you, a plea bargain is essential, and when there are many cases in the system or mitigating factors.

False Allegations or Mistaken Identity

In California, aggravated trespasses often occur in association with domestic violence cases. It’s common for an innocent person to be falsely accused and wrongfully arrested. Anger, jealousy, and revenge feelings can make one person accuse another innocent person falsely of threatening him or her. Similarly, an individual can accuse another of aggravated trespass to cover-up his or her criminal offense. You may be falsely accused of this offense in California if:

  • You were many people then threats were made on the alleged target

  • Another person mistakenly believed that you were liable for issuing threats even if you did not

  • Your identity is similar to the person who issued the threats to the alleged target

In such circumstances, your attorney can always reveal the truth based on his investigations and experience to get your case dismissed.

Insufficient Evidence

The cases of aggravated trespass are common in California. The authorities have made substantial efforts to investigate and prosecute liable parties. However, the investigations and prosecutions are done quickly due to pressure put on the law enforcers. Often, the charges filed against the victims are based on red flags and anonymous clues when, in reality, the evidence against the victims is circumstantial. If the prosecutor accuses you of aggravated trespass without valid evidence to the allegations, the court could dismiss the charges against you.

Related Offenses

Three offenses are almost similar to the crime of aggravated trespass. The prosecutor may charge you with the related offense alongside aggravated trespass or instead of aggravated trespass. The related crimes are:

  • Burglary

  • Trespass

  • Criminal threats

PC 459 – Burglary

You could be guilty of burglary, according to California law, if you access a building or a locked vehicle intending to commit theft or a felony once inside the building. The prosecutor must prove several elements to be able to accuse you of burglary successfully:

  • That you entered a building or a locked vehicle

  • When you entered the building or the locked car, you intended to commit theft or a felony

  • Either of the following is true

You took property whose value was more than $950

The structure of the building that you accessed was not a commercial establishment

You entered a commercial establishment but did so during non-work hours

You should note that you could face burglary charges as long as you entered a building intending to commit a felony or theft. It does not matter even if you failed in committing theft or felony. The prosecuting officer only needs to prove that you entered a building, and you had an intent to commit felony or theft.

You should note that burglary is not the same as breaking into a structure. The California burglary law does not require the defendant to break into a building or any other qualifying structure. You could face burglary charges if you enter a structure through an open window or door as long as you do it illegally. The entry into a structure does not have to be forced to qualify as burglary. You could even commit burglary on an open business without having to make a forced entry.

However, there is an exception in the case of vehicle burglary. You can’t commit auto burglary without breaking into a vehicle first. Therefore, as long as you didn’t break into the car, you can’t be guilty of burglary.

The penalties for burglary will depend on whether the prosecutor charges you with first-degree or second-degree burglary. A first-degree burglary always attracts felony charges. A felony conviction will lead to imprisonment in state prison, felony probation, and hefty fines. A second-degree burglary offense has lighter penalties than a first-degree offense. The prosecutor may charge the offense as either a felony or a misdemeanor.

PC 602- Trespass

Several actions may qualify as trespass, according to California law. You could be guilty of trespass if:

  • You enter another person’s property intending to destroy property

  • You enter another individual’s property intending to obstruct or interfere with business activities taking place within the property

  • You enter or occupy another individual’s property without permission or the person’s consent

  • You refuse to vacate or leave another individual’s property even when the property owner instructs you to go.

You may be guilty of trespass for committing seemingly innocent or minor offenses. For instance, trespass charges may apply if you take a stone, soil, or even dirt from a person’s property without his or her permission. Similar charges may apply if you pick creatures like shellfish or oysters from another person’s land or property without their consent. If you refuse to undergo screening while entering a courthouse or an airport, you could be guilty of trespassing.

The legal definition of trespassing, according to California law, is too complicated. However, the prosecutor can’t accuse you of this offense unless he or she proves several elements:

  • That you willfully or intentionally entered another person’s property

  • You intended to interfere with the owner’s property

  • You went ahead and destroyed or interfered with the owner’s property

The term wilfully means that you acted on purpose or intentionally. The prosecutor must prove that you had a specific intent while entering the property. This means that you had a certain motive.

The prosecutor may charge the crime of trespass as a felony, misdemeanor, or infraction. When you commit the first infraction, the court may impose a fine of $75. When you commit a second infraction trespass on the same land, the court may impose a fine that does not exceed $250. You will be guilty of a misdemeanor if you commit a third trespass on the same property. Misdemeanor and felony trespass attract more penalties than infraction trespass.

PC 422 - Criminal Threats

California PC 422 explains the crime of criminal threats. You could be guilty of this offense if you threaten another individual and cause him or her reasonable fear. For the prosecutor to accuse you of criminal threats, he or she has to prove that:

  • You willfully or intentionally threatened

  • You intended for the victim to the verbal, electronically communicated, or written statement as a threat

  • The threat you issued was specific, unconditional, and immediate

  • The threatened person feared for his or her safety and the safety of his or her immediate relatives

There are several ways of communicating a criminal threat. You don’t have to address the victim directly or in-person while communicating a threat. You can only face criminal threats charges if your threats make the victim suffer reasonable and sustained fear. The prosecutor must be able to establish that the victim feared for their safety or the safety of their family after receiving the threat.

Courts have a hard time defining reasonable and sustained fear. Reasonable fears mean that the fear is justified. It means that a reasonable person would have suffered fear after receiving the threat. Sustained fear refers to a form of fear that extends for more than a moment. However, the courts do not have a definite period for which the fear should last.

Criminal threats are a wobbler, according to California law. You could serve a jail time that does not exceed one year for a misdemeanor conviction of criminal threats. The court may also require you to pay a fine that doesn’t exceed $1,000. For a felony conviction, the court may impose imprisonment in a state prison in California for not more than three years. The court may also charge a hefty fine that does not exceed $10,000.

Find an LA Criminal Defense Law Firm Near Me

You should never underestimate an accusation of aggravated trespass because the associated penalties could be devastating. It’s advisable to contact a competent criminal defense attorney immediately if the prosecutor accuses you of this offense. An attorney will investigate your case and create a convincing defense that will help you fight the charges. If you are facing aggravated trespass charges, The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm can guide and represent you. Contact us at 310-935-1675 and talk to one of our attorneys.