Penal Code 601 PC - Aggravated (Felony) Trespass

“Aggravated Trespass” as a felony in California (Penal Code 601 PC)

Penal Code 601 PC defines the crime of aggravated trespass in California. The crime of trespassing is normally a misdemeanor or an infraction in California. But it can rise to the felony charge of ‘aggravated trespass’ if you make a threat against a person and enter upon their property with intent to carry out that threat. Aggravated trespass per Penal Code 601 PC is a wobbler, meaning it can be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony. As a misdemeanor, it carries up to 1 year of county jail. As a felony, it carries up to 3 years state prison. A person charged with aggravated trespass may also be charged in the same case with burglary per Penal Code 459 and criminal threats per Penal Code 422. http://www.shouselaw.com/aggravated-trespass.html


Penal Code
601 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to:

  1. threaten to injure someone physically, and
  2. then enter that person's home or workplace without permission.

While this code section sets forth the law on aggravated (or, felony) trespass, Penal Code 602 PC sets forth the rules on misdemeanor trespass.

California's felony trespass law states:

“Any person is guilty of trespass who makes a credible threat to cause serious bodily injury…to another person with the intent to place that other person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family…and who does any of the following:

Within 30 days of the threat, unlawfully enters into the residence or real property contiguous to the residence of the person threatened without lawful purpose, and with the intent to execute the threat against the target of the threat.

Within 30 days of the threat, knowing that the place is the threatened person's workplace, unlawfully enters into the workplace of the person threatened and carries out an act or acts to locate the threatened person within the workplace premises without lawful purpose, and with the intent to execute the threat against the target of the threat.”

Examples of illegal acts under this code section include:

  • Maurice tells his ex-girlfriend that he is going to “make her pay for leaving him,” and then he enters her place of work two weeks later with a bat in his hand.
  • Carol sends her neighbor an email saying she will “pay her back” for a loud and disturbing party, and then breaks into her home two days later.
  • Marcos tells a man that he is going to “beat him up,” and he then walks into the man's workplace the following day with the intent to fight him.

Defenses

There are several legal defenses that a person can use to challenge or beat an aggravated trespass charge. These include showing that:

  • a threat was not credible,
  • there was no intent to cause fear, and
  • the defendant did not intend to carry out a threat.

Penalties

A violation of PC 601 is a wobbler offense, meaning that it can be charged either as a misdemeanor or a felony.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the offense is punishable by:

If charged as a felony, the offense is punishable by:

Note that if a person is convicted of felony trespass, this conviction may have:

Also note that a person convicted of this offense can seek to have it expunged once he successfully completes:

  • probation (if imposed), or
  • any jail time (if imposed).

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

gloved hand reaching around door
It is a crime to threaten to injure someone physically, and then enter that person’s home or workplace without permission.

1. What is the law under Penal Code 601 PC?

Penal Code 601 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to threaten to injure someone physically, and then to enter that person's home or workplace without permission.1

A prosecutor must prove three things in order to successfully convict a defendant of this offense. These are:

1. the defendant made a credible threat to cause serious bodily injury to another person,
2. the defendant made the threat with the intent to place the other person in reasonable fear for his safety (or for the safety of his immediate family), and either
3a. within 30 days of making the threat, the defendant unlawfully entered the threatened person's residence without a lawful purpose and with the intent to carry out the threat, or
3b. within 30 days of making the threat, the defendant unlawfully entered the workplace of the threatened person, knowing that the place he entered was the threatened person's workplace, and tried to locate that person without a lawful purpose and with the intent to carry out the threat.2

Note that a prosecutor does not have to show that a defendant acted “willfully” in order to prove an aggravated trespass took place.3

Also note that this statute does not apply if the accused that made the threat entered his own:

  • residence,
  • real property, or
  • workplace.4

Note that questions often arise under this statute on:

  1. the meaning of credible threat
  2. what is serious bodily injury,
  3. the meaning of reasonable fear, and
  4. the definition of an “immediate family member.”

1.1. Credible threat

For purposes of this code section, a “credible threat” is one that:

  1. causes the target of the threat to reasonably fear for his or her safety (or for the safety of his or her immediate family), and
  2. one that the maker of the threat appears able to carry out.5

A credible threat may be made:

  • orally,
  • in writing, or
  • electronically.

It may also be implied by a pattern of conduct or a combination of statements and conduct.6

1.2. Serious bodily injury

A “serious bodily injury,” per this trespass law, means a serious impairment of physical condition. Such an injury may include, but is not limited to:

  • loss of consciousness,
  • concussion,
  • bone fracture,
  • protracted loss or impairment of function of any bodily member or organ,
  • a wound requiring extensive suturing, and
  • serious disfigurement.7

1.3. Reasonable fear

On the issue of whether a defendant intended to place “the victim” in reasonable fear, the court will examine the facts and circumstances of the case.8

In doing so, a judge or jury will consider some or all of the following:

  • the defendant's verbal messages,
  • the accused's conduct,
  • whether anyone else was present (besides the victim and defendant),
  • the victim's reaction to the threat,
  • the relationship between the accused and the victim, and
  • any prior encounters between them.9

1.4. Immediate family member

According to this code section, “immediate family member” means a:

  • spouse, parent, or child,
  • grandchild, grandparent, brother, or sister related by blood or marriage, and
  • person who regularly lives in the household.10
attorney working on case
A good defense can work to reduce a charge or even dismiss one altogether.

2. Are there legal defenses to accusations of aggravated trespass?

An accused can try to beat a felony trespass charge by raising a legal defense. A good defense can work to reduce a charge or even dismiss one altogether.

Three common defenses to PC 601 accusations are:

  1. no credible threat
  2. no intent to cause fear, and/or
  3. no intent to carry out threat

2.1. No credible threat

Recall that an accused is only guilty under this code section if he made a “credible threat” to cause serious bodily injury. A defense, therefore, is for a defendant to show that, while he may have made a threat, it was not serious or credible. For example, perhaps an offender threatened a person in a jokingly manner.

2.2. No intent to cause fear

This is similar to the prior defense. Here, an offender would argue that while he may have made a threat, he did not mean for that threat to cause fear. For example, maybe he threatened to tickle another person.

2.3. No intent to carry out threat

Recall that under this statute, a defendant can only be found guilty if he goes to a victim's residence or workplace with the intent to carry out his threat. This means it is always a legal defense for an accused to show that he did not act with this requisite intent. For example, maybe the defendant entered a residence or workplace to apologize to the victim.

3. What are the penalties for committing felony trespass?

A violation of PC 601 is a wobbler offense, meaning that it can be charged either as a misdemeanor or a felony.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the offense is punishable by:

  • misdemeanor (or summary) probation,
  • up to one year in county jail, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $2,000.11

If charged as a felony, the offense is punishable by:

  • felony (or formal) probation,
  • up to three years in county jail, and/or
  • a fine of up to $10,000.12

4. Are there immigration consequences if a person commits this crime?

A PC 601 conviction may result in negative immigration consequences.

Note that under United States immigration law, some California criminal convictions can lead to a non-citizen being deported. Some convictions can also make an immigrant "inadmissible.”

The major categories of “deportable” or “inadmissible” crimes are:

  • crimes of moral turpitude,
  • aggravated felonies,
  • controlled substances (drug) offenses,
  • firearms offenses, and
  • domestic violence crimes.13

Depending on the facts of a given case, a felony trespass charge may rise to the level of an aggravated felony. If it does, then it may have detrimental immigration effects.

5. Can a person get an expungement after a Penal Code 601 conviction?

A person convicted of aggravated trespass is entitled to an expungement if he successfully completes the terms and conditions of probation.

An “expungement,” per Penal Code 1203.4, releases an individual from virtually "all penalties and disabilities" arising out of the conviction.14

One particular benefit is that an expunged conviction does not need to be disclosed to potential employers.

As a basic rule, PC 1203.4 authorizes an expungement for a misdemeanor or felony offense provided the applicant:

  1. successfully completed probation, and
  2. is not currently charged with a criminal offense, on probation for one, or serving a sentence for a crime.15

This means that once a defendant has successfully completed probation (if it was imposed) or served out a jail term (if applicable), then he may begin trying to get the crime expunged.

6. Does an aggravated trespass conviction affect a person's gun rights?

A conviction for felony trespass may have an effect on the convicted party's gun rights. It all depends on whether the conviction resulted in a misdemeanor or a felony.

The following people are generally prohibited from acquiring or possessing a gun in California:

  1. felons (that is, anyone convicted of any felony offense in any jurisdiction),
  2. narcotic addicts,
  3. persons with two or more convictions under Penal Code 417 PC, California's law against brandishing a weapon,
  4. persons convicted of certain misdemeanor offenses (such as convictions of Penal Code 273.5 PC, California's law against corporal injury on a spouse),
  5. persons who suffer from mental illness, and
  6. people under 18 (people under 21 may not purchase a gun).

Recall that felony trespass can get charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Given the first category above, if a defendant gets charged with felony aggravated trespass, and gets convicted of the same, then that conviction would mean he would have to give up any gun ownership and possession rights.

7. Are there laws related to this statute?

There are three laws related to felony trespass. These are:

  1. trespass – PC 602,
  2. burglary – PC 459, and
  3. criminal threats – PC 422

7.1. Trespass – PC 602

California Penal Code 602 PC prohibits the crime known as criminal trespass. A person commits this crime when he:

  1. enters, or remains on, someone else's property, and
  2. does so without permission or a right to do so.16

In most cases, California trespass is a misdemeanor punishable by:

  • up to six months in county jail, and/or
  • a fine of up to $1,000.17

However, certain kinds of trespass in California may lead to only infraction charges, with penalties consisting of only a small fine.18

7.2. Burglary – PC 459

Penal Code 459 PC is the California statute that defines the crime of "burglary."

Under this section, a burglary occurs when a person enters any residential or commercial building or room with the intent to commit a felony or a theft once inside.19

One commits the crime of burglary merely by entering the structure with the requisite criminal intent, even if the intended felony or theft is never actually completed.

California burglary law is divided into first-degree burglary and second-degree burglary. First-degree burglary is burglary of a residence. Second-degree burglary is the burglary of any other type of structure (including stores and businesses).20

California first-degree burglary is always a felony. The potential consequences include a state prison sentence of up to four years.21

Second-degree burglary is what is known as a wobbler in California law. This means that it may be charged as either:

  • a felony, with a potential county jail sentence of up to three years, or
  • a misdemeanor, with a potential county jail sentence of up to one year.22

7.3. Criminal threats – PC 422

Penal Code 422 PC is the California statute that defines the crime of "criminal threats."

A "criminal threat" is when a defendant threatens to kill or physically harm someone and

  • that person is thereby placed in a state of reasonably sustained fear for his safety or for the safety of his immediate family,
  • the threat is specific and unequivocal, and
  • the defendant communicated the threat verbally, in writing, or via an electronically transmitted device.23

A violation of this statute is a wobbler, meaning that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

As a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by up to one year in county jail.24

As a felony, the offense is punishable by up to four years in state prison.25

Were you accused of aggravated trespass in California? Call us for help…

california trespass criminal defense attorneys
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime under Penal Code 601 PC, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LawFirm.

For similar accusations in Nevada, please see our article on: “NRS 207.200 - Nevada ‘Trespass' Laws.”

For similar accusations in Colorado, please see our article on: “Colorado Criminal ‘Trespassing' Laws.”


Legal References:

  1. California Penal Code 601 PC. This code section states: “(a) Any person is guilty of trespass who makes a credible threat to cause serious bodily injury, as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 417.6, to another person with the intent to place that other person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family, as defined in subdivision (l) of Section 646.9, and who does any of the following:

    (1) Within 30 days of the threat, unlawfully enters into the residence or real property contiguous to the residence of the person threatened without lawful purpose, and with the intent to execute the threat against the target of the threat.

    (2) Within 30 days of the threat, knowing that the place is the threatened person's workplace, unlawfully enters into the workplace of the person threatened and carries out an act or acts to locate the threatened person within the workplace premises without lawful purpose, and with the intent to execute the threat against the target of the threat.”

  2. CALCRIM No. 2929 - Trespass After Making Credible Threat, Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (2017 edition).

  3. People v. Ramirez, 2010 Cal. App. Unpub. Lexis 4992.

  4. California Penal Code 601b PC.

  5. CALCRIM No. 2929 - Trespass After Making Credible Threat, Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (2017 edition).

  6. See same.

  7. See same.

  8. People v. Bermudez (1984) 157 Cal.App.3d 619.

  9. See same.

  10. CALCRIM No. 2929 - Trespass After Making Credible Threat, Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions (2017 edition).

  11. California Penal Code 601 PC.

  12. See same.

  13. See INA 237 (a) (2) (A).

  14. California Penal Code 1203.4 PC.

  15. See same.

  16. California Penal Code 602 PC.

  17. See same.

  18. California Penal Code 602.8 PC.

  19. California Penal Code 459 PC.

  20. California Penal Code 460 PC.

  21. California Penal Code 461 PC.

  22. See same.

  23. California Penal Code 422 PC.

  24. See same.

  25. See same.

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