According to CA Penal Code §602, trespassing is a crime that involves illegally trampling on another person’s rights by accessing their property without their permission. Charges of this kind can range anywhere from not leaving property when you have been asked to entering someone’s property for the purpose of causing destruction to it to what is known as “squatting.”
In all these types of criminal trespass, the issue of intent becomes the focal point. If the prosecution cannot prove that you “willfully” entered another’s property for criminal purposes – or at least for the purposes of disrupting some activity that was taking place on the premises. But if it can be proven that you were simply on the property – even if the owner doesn’t particularly like what you are doing – and not causing an obstruction or interference, then you can also prove that you have been wrongfully accused of trespassing as defined by California law.
This was indeed the case for Erris Edgerly, who, 13 years ago, was arrested for trespassing in San Francisco’s Western Addition housing complex on Eddy Street. Edgerly was seen sitting on the property near a fenced in portion of the Martin Luther King Marcus Garvey Cooperative Apartments. Local law enforcement officials asked Edgerly what he was doing there – they were not acquainted with him as a resident of the complex – and he replied that he was “just chillin.” After the arrest, Edgerly explained that he was simply waiting for a friend of his to come home. The case became one concerning civil rights violations – Edgerly claims that he was wrongfully accused and searched several times by the arresting officers – and he sued the city for emotional distress. An appellate court has now decided in Edgerly’s favor concerning civil rights violations, especially as he was held in custody even though he had presented the police with accurate identifying documents. Edgerly still resides in the Bay area, where he has become an active member of an organization called “Brothers for Change,” which focuses on community support for African American men and fathers and political activism.