What is Trespassing? Understand Fundamentals

While the simple, dictionary definition of “trespassing” is entering another’s private property without express permission, criminal trespassing involves other factors. The type of criminal charge/penalty for trespassing on private property can vary wildly, however.

Here are important facts to know about criminal trespassing and trespassing penalties.


  • The intent to damage, or even interfere with the property greatly exacerbates the penalty for trespassing on private property.
  • Occupying another person’s private property and refusal to vacate
  • It’s important to know local and state laws regarding this crime–for example, penalties for trespassing in California are particularly strict.
  • Not all trespassing involves breaking and entering (or even climbing a fence), but jail time for breaking and entering is

Refusal to Vacate

While it may seem less serious, refusal to vacate can yield trespassing penalties, too.

In a recent California case, a homeless man was asked to leave a public library by the building’s security guard. He told the guard he would vacate the premises, but instead, he hid in the women’s restroom. He startled several female library patrons the next morning, and was shown to have violated a subsection of California’s Penal Code for Trespassing.

Uncommon Trespassing Charges

Trespassing comes in all shapes and sizes. For example, an individual who commits either of the following acts will face trespassing penalties in the state of California:

– Injuring, or cutting down any kind of tree, wood, or timber that stands or grows on another person’s property.
– Fishing or otherwise removing oysters, shellfish, and other seafood from another’s land.

How Prosecutors Prove Trespassing Charges

As in all criminal charges, the burden of proof lies on the prosecutor. To be convicted and sentenced to a penalty for trespassing in California, the prosecutor must prove that the following elements were true of your behavior:

  • You entered the land willfully and without the owner’s express consent.
  • You were on the private owner’s land with the specific intent of interfering with, or of damaging, said owner’s property.

Fighting California Trespassing Charges

Common defenses against trespassing charges in California include, but are by no means limited to the following strategies:

  • Showing that there was, in fact, consent from the property’s owner
  • Arguing that you didn’t “occupy” the private property in question; the owner must claim that you interfered with their own use of the property, and that you did this for a prolonged period (which may vary by region).
  • Proving there was no interference with the owner’s property, or lack of intent to do so.
  • Showing you had a right to be on the property–this is common in union activities such as a lawful labor strike or peaceful protest.

Penalties a Trespasser Might Receive

In the event that trespassing is charged as a mere infraction, the penalty will most likely be a small fine. Misdemeanors (the most common category of California trespassing cases) usually face a larger fine and up to 6 months in a county jail, depending on the severity of the charges or repeat offenses.

Trespassing can be a felony, as well. “Aggravated trespassing” incidences–i.e. threatening someone, then entering their property without consent with the intent (or even appearance) of acting out said threat–can come with a jail sentence of up to 3 years.

If You’ve Been Charged With Trespassing or Breaking and Entering

The trespassing bail bonds process is very similar to that of other criminal offenses, but the bond amount may vary.

If you’ve been accused of criminal trespassing or breaking and entering, you’ll need the services of a dedicated Breaking and Entering Bail Bondsman. You’re likely to be sentenced to jail time for breaking and entering, whereas the penalty for trespassing in California might allow you to complete some sort of alternative sentencing option (probation, fines, etc.).

If you have questions about the potential penalty for trespassing in California, the trespassing bail bonds process, or if you need to obtain the services of a Breaking and Entering Bail Bondsman, you can’t afford to delay: contact us today.