In addition to the well known crime of trespass, the state of California has another crime of trespass called aggravated trespass. Aggravated trespass, under California Penal Code section 601, happens when you threaten to injure someone in a serious manner and you then unlawfully enter that individual’s home or place of employment within 30 days of making the threat with the intention of carrying out the threat that you made. Aggravated trespass is sometimes referred to as either felony trespass or trespass after making threats and is often closely connected with instances of domestic violence. It is also a crime that is frequently committed together with cases of stalking.
In order for the prosecution to be able to secure a conviction against someone for the crime of aggravated trespass under Penal Code section 601, he or she must be able to prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt.
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Elements of Trespass
- A person made a credible threat to inflict serious bodily injury upon another person,
- The person intended to place the individual that was threatened in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family member(s), and
- Within thirty days of making this threat, the person unlawfully entered into the residence of the individual’s home, or the real property next to the individual’s home, or the workplace of the individual’s home with the intent to execute the threat against the target of the threat.
Credible Threat – What California Penal Code section 601 means by reasonable threat is any type of threat that gives the alleged victim a reasonable belief that their safety or the safety of their immediate family member is in danger. The threat itself doesn’t have to be verbal. It can also be a written threat via letter, text, or email, or it can be a threat implicit in someone’s conduct or behavior. Daniel and Courtney broke up because Daniel had feelings for someone else. Courtney texted Daniel saying that she was going to get back at him for breaking her heart and that if she couldn’t have him no one could. Several days later Daniel was at the movies with his new girlfriend. As they were leaving, Courtney was walking in and she saw them. Upset, she pulled a switchblade out of her pocket and waved it at him. That night she showed up at his house and broke in while he was sleeping. Courtney may be charged with of a violation of Penal Code section 601 because she made a threat that would lead Daniel to believe that his or his new girlfriend’s life was in danger by both texting that she was going to get back at him and by her actions of brandishing the pocketknife at him. A reasonable person could infer from both of these actions that she threatened him. She then acted on that threat by breaking into his house in the attempt to inflict harm upon him.
Serious Bodily Injury – Serious bodily injury can mean causing someone damage to their physical condition in various different ways, including breaking or fracturing bones, causing a concussion or loss of consciousness, disfiguring someone, causing wounds that require surgery or stitches, or harming someone’s organs. Example: Jasmine and Sarah get into an argument after a heated game of basketball. Jasmine accuses Sarah of cheating and tells her she’ll do whatever it takes to get back at her. The next week while Sarah is asleep Jasmine breaks into her house and throws acid on her. Jasmine is guilty of a violation of Penal Code section 601 aggravated trespass because she made a threat that would lead a reasonable person to believe that their life or the life of someone else was in danger, and she acted on that threat by breaking into her house in an attempt to cause serious bodily harm.
Residence/Workplace – It is noteworthy to stress that a person cannot be convicted of violating of Penal Code section 601 aggravated trespass if he or she enters his or her own home or own workplace with the intention of carrying out a threat. If, for example, Victor is Robert’s boss and Victor tells Robert that he will not be working on the assignment he has spent months preparing for, and instead the new girl will take it over. Robert gets extremely upset and tells Victor that he is going to kill him for screwing him over. The next day at work Robert stabs Victor. Robert cannot be convicted of a violation of aggravated trespass pursuant to Penal Code section 601 because he did not trespass in order to carry out his threat. Note, however, that he can be convicted of other crimes in this instance, including assault with a deadly weapon or attempted murder.
Penalties for Aggravated Trespass
Even though as discussed above aggravated trespass is sometimes referred to as “felony trespass”, it is still a wobbler crime and can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony crime. Whether it is charged as a felony or misdemeanor is at the discretion of the prosecution and largely depends on the seriousness of circumstances of the case as well the defendant’s criminal history. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor aggravated trespass Penal Code section 601, you are facing a one-year maximum in county jail and a maximum of $2,000 in fines. You may also be given misdemeanor or summary probation.
However, if you are convicted of aggravated trespass Penal Code section 601 as a felony, you are facing 16 months, two years or a maximum of three years served in county jail under the realignment program in the state of California. You can also be sentenced to a maximum of $10,000 in fines and formal probation. Perhaps most notable is that whether you are convicted of a misdemeanor or felony of this crime you will end up with a criminal record. The conviction will show up on criminal background checks and may prevent you from obtaining future employment.
Defenses for Aggravated Trespass
There are various offenses that the Criminal Law Office of Leah Legal can adopt when dealing with your aggravated trespass case.
Unreasonable Threat - The threat made against the alleged victim was not a reasonable or credible threat that would lead one to believe that their life of that of their family or loved ones was in danger.
No Intent to Carry Out Threat – Another defense for aggravated trespass Penal Code section 601 is if you had no intention of carrying out the threat that you made against the person. For instance, Tito made a joke about killing David if he won the poker game. David did not realize that this was just a joke and went to the police to report a threat. However, because Tito was joking and had no intentions of carrying out the threat he made, David was not in danger even though he was fearful after the statement was made.
No Intent to Carry Out Threat in Residence or Workplace – When you entered the residence or the workplace, you never intended to act upon a threat that you made earlier. You did not intend on acting upon the threat when you entered the person’s home or workplace. Example: Tammy and Patricia went out for drinks one night. After several drinks Patricia became extremely inebriated. Tammy told Patricia that she should stop drinking and go home. Patricia became angry and told Tammy she was going to kill her tomorrow at work. The next day when Patricia showed up at Tammy’s work Tammy called the police because she was afraid that Patricia was going to act on the threat she had made the night before. However, before the police arrived Patricia apologized to Tammy. Patricia had no intentions of acting on the threat she had made the night before when she came to Tammy’s work therefore she cannot be convicted of a violation of aggravated trespass under Penal Code section 601.
No Knowledge of Person’s Residence or Workplace - You may not have known that you were entering of the workplace of the person that you threatened.