Vista Criminal Attorney is a reputable criminal defense law firm located in the heart of Vista, CA. Our lawyers in the firm have an established track record of tailoring defenses that suit your criminal defense case. Particularly, the lawyers have what it takes to successfully navigate charges for aggravated trespass. Trespass charges may not always qualify to be charged as a criminal offense unless the intruder interferes with the lawful business that takes place in a restricted place. However, in cases where the alleged enters a residential premise without the permission of the owner, they can be prosecuted for trespass.  It is common that a person will enter someone’s private territory with prior permission. However, there are instances where the person may take part in a protest that would cause interference with normal business. The owner may ask that person to leave. Hence, withdrawing permission. In which case, the intruder now commits an act of trespass.

However, as earlier mentioned trespass charges alone do not warrant a criminal record, you need to be convicted for the charge to stay on your record. Therefore, you want a strong defense counsel on your side to help stop the charges from being on your criminal history. In fact, the prosecutor must prove the trespasser intended to cause obstruction. Thereby, the person can be charged for trespass.

What is Aggravated Trespass Under California Law

Trespass charges could be linked to trivial things such as playing loud music or placing intrusive banners. Therefore, it is important to know all the different factors in a trespass charge in order to construct a successful defense for every aspect of the said crime.  These acts would qualify for trespass in the case they were conducted in a restricted place. Aggravated trespass is also referred to as further trespass. The criminal offense is often considered a major charge vs a lone trespass charge. Trespass qualifies to be a criminal offense when it was intentional. In addition, the court must establish whether the trespasser intended to cause destruction in order for the defendant to be charged with aggravated trespass. The nature of the action is what distinguishes between normal trespass and aggravated trespass charges.

California law defines aggravated trespass under Penal Code 601PC. The penal code stresses that the criminal charge should include aggravating circumstances in order to be filed as aggravated trespass. Furthermore, for normal trespass charges, many first-time convicts are either discharged on a condition they won't repeat the offense. Usually, for first-time offenders, the defendant rarely does prison time for regular trespass. Still, for aggravated charges, the maximum penalty goes up to three years so it is not worth taking a risk going to court alone without a defense attorney on your side.

The nature of conviction varies from state to state. For instance, there are states that will consider aggravated trespass as a misdemeanor. In California, aggravated trespass is treated as a wobbler offense which means it can be charged either as a felony or a misdemeanor.

A person who trespasses into a construction site, public property, private utility, telephone operating site or an electric power station, with the intention of stealing tampering, vandalizing, altering or defacing any equipment, may be charged with aggravated trespass since there are aggravating circumstances to the criminal act of trespass.

Elements of the Conviction Process for an Aggravated Trespass Case

The prosecutor must show proof of evidence that a suspect is guilty of aggravated trespass. The proof of evidence is influenced by the following elements. The following elements must hold true for one to be convicted of aggravated trespass

  1. Credible threat - The defendant made a credible threat to cause serious bodily harm or injury to the plaintiff when trespassing. In fact, the credible threat offers a roadmap for establishing criminal intent. Furthermore, a credible threat is enough evidence that the trespass was planned and serious bodily harm was intended. A credible threat could be made orally, in writing or electronically. The court also provides that the threat could have been expressed through a manner of conduct. Meanwhile, it is upon the prosecutor to prove the trespass was tied to a credible threat.

  2. Intention to cause fear - When the defendant made a credible threat, they intended to cause reasonable fear to another person. In the process, the plaintiff must have incurred reasonable fear for their own safety or their immediate family’s safety.

  3. Thirty-day duration - The court must establish that within thirty days of expressing a credible threat, the defendant gained unauthorized entry into the accuser's property. The entry must have also failed to express a lawful purpose. The court, therefore, presumes the defendant intruded a place of residence intending to carry out the threat. The prosecutor must also establish the following fact. After gaining entry, the defendant attempted to locate the threatened individual or their immediate family.

Take for instance the following real-life examples of trespass, in one case the trespass was charged as a criminal offense and the two others were exceptional incidences that were not charged.

Example one, Jack went to a bar with his girlfriend Lorna. At the bar, while Jack was playing pool, Lorna meets an old friend, Jim and starts talking to him. Later on that night after Jack notices the two. He is angered and threatens that Jim will pay for what he has done. During the altercation that ensued, Jack displays a pistol, pulls Lorna away and they leave the bar. A week later, Jack breaks into Jim's house. However, Jim calls the police. Jack is arrested and could be guilty of aggravated trespass. The trial process would first analyze the detail of the trespass and the argument that ensured a week before. The combination of statements from orally threatening Jim, to showing him a pistol clearly depicts that Jack conducted a credible threat against Jim. All would result in an aggravated trespass charge. The prosecutor could also allege that Jack intended to commit a more heinous offense. For instance, Assault with a deadly weapon.

Example two, Jack and Lorna are married. They both live in the same apartment. One day Jack finds out that Lorna is cheating on him. Therefore, he goes out and drinks. Lorna locks the door and sleeps. Jack returns drunk and does not have the keys to the apartment. In fact, he threatens to teach Lorna a lesson for cheating on him and locking the door. Because Lorna is scared, she does not open the door and Jack breaks in. Afterward, he causes physical harm to Lorna. Despite the fact, Jack's entry was by force. The law would not consider him an intruder because the apartment belongs to both him and Lorna. Although the threat qualifies to cause reasonable fear, the prosecutor cannot charge Jack for aggravated trespass. However, Jack could qualify for other criminal offenses such as a domestic battery.

There are certain exceptions to whom California Penal Code 601 PC does not apply to. The exceptions to trespass are based on the defendant's property rights. The defendant's entitlement to property could be by ownership, a place of work or real property. The defendant is exempted from trespass charges when they enter into a property to which they are entitled. Other persons that are exempted from the penal code include; Any persons attached to labor union activities and is authorized by the National labor relations act or the California Labor Relations Act.  Additionally, charges can only be aggravated if the victim of the trespass had credible intentions to harm the victim on top of trespassing.

Penalties Defined Under Penal Code 601 PC of California Law

A conviction of aggravated trespass is based upon two features. Particularly, the nature of the said allegations and the suspects criminal record. Both elements would justify how a judge decides on a conviction. In addition, aggravated trespass is treated as a wobbler case. A wobbler is a case that can be treated either as a misdemeanor or a felony. Therefore, having a criminal record and aggravating circumstances may increase your penalties according to California Law.

When charged as a misdemeanor, aggravated trespass will attract the following penalties;

  • Misdemeanor probation
  • Up to one year of county jail
  • And/or $2000 court fine

When charged as a felony, aggravated trespass will carry the following conviction;

  • Felony probation
  • 16 months, 2 years or 3 years of county jail aimed towards California's realignment program.
  • Court fine of up to $10,000

Charges Related to Aggravated Trespass

Criminal Threat

A criminal threat is defined under penal code section 422 PC of California law. As earlier mentioned, a credible threat is the first step in establishing an act of aggravated trespass. In proving a criminal threat, a prosecutor must ensure that the defendant intended to cause reasonable fear to another person. Similarly, a criminal threat is also a wobbler offense. The nature of the conviction is also based on a defendant's criminal history and the specific nature of the criminal encounter. However, a criminal threat is based on the three strikes law. The strikes law is used to determine the path of future convictions of a defendant's criminal history.


Burglary is the unlawful entry into someone's property with the intention of committing a felony. Burglary is defined under penal code 459 PC of California law. Burglary is either charged as first-degree burglary or second-degree burglary. The first-degree burglary happens when the defendant broke into a residential property. Otherwise, a second-degree burglary occurs after intrusion into commercial property. An act of burglary requires the prosecutor to establish two elements of the criminal bargain. The prosecutor must prove the defendant entered a building, a room, or car without prior authorization. Finally, the prosecutor must prove the defendant entered into the property with the intention to commit a felony or theft.

Stalking and Cyberstalking

Stalking and cyberstalking laws are considered the most comprehensive and toughest laws in the United States. California law defines stalking and cyberstalking under Penal Code 646.9. The description simply states that stalking is the repeated act of following, harassing or threatening someone. When either of the above three mentioned acts is conducted to the point of inducing fear to a person. Or to the point that the person fears for his/her safety or the safety of their family; The offense is referred to as stalking. Numerous cases have been reported of college students that threaten their loved ones with subsequent notes if they don't agree to go on a date with them. Stalking is also a wobbler case. The nature of the case and the defendant's criminal record determines the court verdict. At times stalking may be considered an automatic felony when; the conduct violates a protective order issued by the court.

Legal Defense for Aggravated Trespass

Legal defenses to charges of aggravated trespass are fairly logical and take into account the very elements of the trial. Aggravated trespass must have a willful element. In addition, the intent must be towards committing severe bodily injury to another person. To successfully navigate the ins of an aggravated trial, it requires that the criminal lawyer take advantage of the elements of a conviction. It could occur that a person is on a hiking trail and accidentally trespasses into someone's property. The attorney should submit to the court that the defendant had no criminal intent. Furthermore, the defendant could argue that they had prior permission to enter the property. In fact, if at the time of trespass; permission had still been valid, the defense could vindicate the defendant’s charges. Nevertheless, a defense of prior permission may have a limited scope. For instance, if a business places security guards with the heavy burden of monitoring visitors when they have extended their stay at a guarded place and askes the visitors to leave. The visitors have lost permission to be in the establishment, a good example is loitering within a bank.  Therefore, this defense does not hold if permission was withdrawn.

Other Elements of Trespass

There are other occupations that hold policies or rules for an act of aggravated trespass. To note, when the nature of trespass is analyzed, the following matters could be put in mind. Because to many, trespass could sound like a deliberate intrusion into a restricted place. Note that taking photographs of a restricted place could also be termed as trespassing. In other instances, a man sleeping in his sleeping bag on an extensive piece of land that was deemed private property was charged with trespassing. The court discharged the man claiming they could not establish the event as an aggravated trespass. The reason behind dismissal is that unless the defendant deprived the owner of the land of his/her right to the property for a substantial amount of time; the trespass was short lived and temporary therefore not a criminal offense. Let us take a look at a few of the details:

  1. Photography - Residents, officers or security guards might sometimes get irritated by someone taking photographs of them. A couple sitting at the park might as well hate the idea of an intruder taking their photographs. To be specific, there are no laws in California or any other jurisdiction that restrict the taking of photographs in parks, malls or shopping centers. However, some malls have as a condition of entry, that you don't take photographs. In which case, breaching the condition would qualify the action as trespass. However, the act may not necessarily qualify for aggravated trespass but could serve as an infringement of privacy.

  2. Security guards and acts of force - The law permits security officers to use reasonable force to remove someone from a restricted area. However, the law applies on occasions that the person means to cause harm to other people in a premise. The security guards are also granted use of reasonable force when the defendant had the intention to destroy property. Meanwhile, the officers are restricted against the excessive force for which they could be charged with assault. The nature of the situation would also determine whether the guards are the one to remove you. Sometimes, it could be a rioting crowd threatening to burn down a premise. In which case, police officers should be informed.

  3. Attaching yourself to property - While protesting, people might be tempted to lock themselves into a given site. When police arrive at a scene, they may not remove the locked people from a scene. Although such acts of demonstration are legalized, it is likely that one would be arrested for aggravated trespass. Sometimes the lock on can cause damage, upon which someone may be arrested for criminal vandalism.

  4. Breach of peace - Some instances of demonstration are likely to call for a police arrest. An intruder may be arrested because of a breach of peace. Since they are the cause of alarm to a peaceful place. Meanwhile, a breach of the peace may not qualify one for criminal aggravated trespassing charges. However, the police could detain you until the risk of breaching the peace is past.

Find a Vista Criminal Attorney Near Me

We recommend profound expertise and experience when facing charges involving aggravated trespass. We understand that it can be devastating to your life when you are charged with criminal charges. It can lead to a criminal record which can be a detriment to finding a job and hurt your reputation.  Therefore, we handle your case with care and make sure you are not going into court without a strong defense.  The Vista Criminal Attorney Law Firm is reputable for providing defenses in that manner. Our lawyers are skilled with extensive knowledge of California Law. You need is a lawyer that is able to determine the route your defense should take. We have a recorded history of providing criminal defense for clients successfully. Therefore, it is pertinent that you speak to one of our legal advisors to learn about the various factors and elements of an aggravated trespass charge. Give our Vista Criminal Attorney a call at 760-691-1551 for further guidance.