Criminal Trespass. There are many types of criminal trespass. In general, a person must willfully enter onto another's property with the intent to interfere with property rights (such as burglary or vandalism) or intent to harm the person, or refuse to leave the property upon request. (See Penal Code §601 §602 for a full list of factors.)
Scaling a fence to enter a property shows willful entry and may be prosecutable depending on intent. If the intent is to retrieve an errant football, a district attorney will decline to prosecute. Similarly, walking into someone's open garage to greet a neighbor would not be deemed a crime.
Civil Trespass. Criminal trespass and civil trespass are essentially the same. The difference is enforcement. Governmental authorities enforce criminal trespass whereas an aggrieved owner enforces civil trespass via litigation.
In California, civil trespass now includes invasion of privacy. Under Civil Code §1708.8(a)
, a person is liable for invasion of privacy if he knowingly intrudes onto private property without permission to capture a visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of a person engaging in a private, personal, or familial activity.
Entering a garage to check on someone's well-being would not qualify as an invasion of privacy.
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