Is Sneaking Into a Movie In San Jose a Crime?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Feb 12, 2016 | 0 Comments

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You want to see “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” for the 20th time but don't want to pay. But if you sneak into a movie you haven't paid for in San Jose, you are technically committing a crime and could face criminal charges.


When you buy a ticket at a movie theater box office, you are buying a ticket for a particular showing of a particular movie. That ticket gives you the theater owner's permission to be on the private property of the movie theater. But that permission only extends to that showing of that movie.

If you buy a ticket for and watch “Captain America” and then walk down the hall and sneak into the next showing of “Star Wars” for example, you are going beyond your rights to be on the theater's property. You are going into the next movie without the owner's permission.

That can constitute the crime of trespassing as defined in California law. Under California Penal Code Section 602, criminal trespassing includes:

Entering and occupying real property or structures of any kind without the consent of the owner, the owner's agent, or the person in lawful possession.

 You could also be charged with trespassing if you enter the theater through a back door or fire exit, or if you sneak past the box office and go into the theater without paying at all.

Trespassing is a California misdemeanor that could result in up to six months in Santa Clara County jail and up to $1,000 in fines. More likely, you will be sentenced to misdemeanor (summary) probation.

Theft by False Pretenses

The movie theater is providing you a service: a room and a seat to watch a film they are projecting for you. If you watch a movie you haven't paid for, you are stealing this service.

When you tell the box office that you are going to see “Captain America” with the intent to watch “Star Wars” as well, you are lying to obtain the theater's services and are committing the crime of “theft by false pretenses” under California Penal Code Section 532.

Since the value of the “service” is minimal, it will constitute “petty theft,” which is a misdemeanor under California law. The maximum punishment is six months in county jail, a fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000), or both.

If you've been charged with a crime for sneaking into a movie in San Jose, please give one of our experienced San Jose criminal defense attorneys a call today to discuss your situation.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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