California Penal Code Section 653(b) PC: Loitering at a School
1. Definition and Elements of the Crime
The California legislature has recognized that schools and other places where children congregate are areas that require heightened levels of protection. As a result of these concerns, the legislature enacted California Penal Code Section 653b PC which makes it a criminal offense to loiter in or around a school with an unlawful purpose.
In order to prove that a defendant is guilty of loitering at or around a school, a prosecutor must be able to prove the following elements:
- The defendant either:
- Delayed, lingered or idled at or near a school children attend or a public place where children normally congregate
- OR entered, reentered or remained at a school or public place where children normally congregate within 72 hours after having been asked to leave by the chief administrative official of that school
- The defendant did not have a lawful purpose for being at or near the school or public place
- AND the defendant intended to commit a crime if the opportunity arose.
Similar offenses include the following:
- Trespassing - California Penal Code Section 602 PC
- Child Abduction - California Penal Code Section 278 PC
- Annoying or Molesting a Child - California Penal Code Section 647.6 PC
A man is going through a bitter divorce and is upset that he has been denied custody of his minor son. The man intends to take his son from school and leave the state. The man goes to his son’s school and waits in the parking lot so he can take the child as soon as class ends. The man could be prosecuted for loitering at a school in violation of California Penal Code Section 653b PC because he was waiting at the school with the intent to commit child abduction in violation of California Penal Code Section 278 PC.
In another example, a vagrant is caught near school grounds. He explains to school officials that he was simply looking to collect cans to recycle from neighborhood garbage bins. The vagrant would not be criminally liable for loitering near a school because he did not intend to commit a crime, which is required by the statute.
4. Defenses to Loitering at a School
As mentioned above, a defendant cannot be convicted of this offense if he or she did not have an unlawful purpose when he or she was at or near the school. The courts have held that a defendant who was handing out leaflets protesting war and calling for a student strike did not have the requisite unlawful purpose to be convicted of this offense.
Loitering at or near a school is a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 court fine. If the defendant is a person who is required to register as a sex offender under California Penal Code Section 290 PC, the maximum fine amount on a first conviction for loitering at or around a school increases to $2,000. If the defendant is required to register as a sex offender and has a previous conviction under California Penal Code Section 653b PC, he or she must serve a minimum of 10 days in jail. And if the defendant is required to register as a sex offender and has two or more prior convictions for loitering in or around a school, that person must serve a minimum of 90 days in jail custody.
6. Criminal Defense for Loitering at a School
If you or a loved one have been charged with loitering at a school it is very important that you consult with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney right away. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who is highly skilled at defending individuals charged with offenses like this. In many cases, Mr. Kraut's early involvement in a case can result in the charges being reduced or even rejected altogether. Mr. Kraut understands the potential stigma associated with charges of this nature and is able to make court appearances on behalf of his clients so they do not have to personally appear in court.
For more information about loitering at a school charges, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.