Loitering is one of many crimes considered as an inherent preceding offense to other forms of public crime and disorder. Public nuisance, street violence, and public display of obscenity are some categories highly related to loitering. The difference, however, is the fact that loitering is not a crime in and of itself. Rather, it is only considered as such when there is an ill-intent behind the person's reason to loiter.
In California, a person is generally guilty of illegal loitering if he/she:
- Had no lawful or apparent purpose of being in that place, and
- Planned to commit a crime.
For example, if you linger around a public place to solicit sexual favors from other people, that is considered loitering in the form of prostitution and is prosecutable under California Penal Code PC 653.22. Meanwhile, it is also highly possible for someone to commit unlawful loitering in a private space. For instance, if you wander inside a private property of another individual without the owner's consent, you are guilty of loitering in the form of trespassing.
Indeed, loitering is just an umbrella for a wide variety of crimes. For this article, however, we shall be dealing with loitering near children. Under California Penal Code PC 653b, the same definition of loitering applies, but for it to be punished under the said law, it must be done in the following circumstances:
- The defendant must be inside or near a school;
- The defendant must be inside or near a playground intended for children's use;
- The defendant must be inside or near a public pool that allows entry of children; or
- The defendant must be inside or near any public place or area where children normally attend or congregate.
Basically, this is just a mixture of loitering and offending the children's best interests. You may also be charged with loitering near children if you have been asked to leave by a designated official but return within the 72-hour period. Usually, these concerned officials only ask certain individuals to leave their school's parameters if they reasonably believe that the presence of the individual puts the safety of the students at risk. A common example of which is a stranger who enters a preschool with no apparent reason other than to watch the children. The stranger is neither a legal custodian of any student enrolled in the institution nor a school staff.
Punishments for Loitering Near Children
Unlawfully loitering near children is a misdemeanor offense in California, as opposed to a felony or infraction. The former is the most severe form of punishment with the highest possible fines and prison sentences while the latter is limited to fines only and no prison sentence.
Based on the standards set by California Penal Code PC 653b, anyone who is convicted guilty of loitering near children will face the following consequences:
- A maximum county jail sentence of 6 months, and
- A fine not exceeding $1,000
As mentioned earlier, these are only the standard punishments. Obviously, the penalties will increase in severity if you are a registered sex offender. Take a look at the list of punishments below:
- If you commit the crime for the first time, you are mandated to pay a fine not exceeding $2,000 and/or a maximum county jail sentence of 6 months;
- If you commit the crime for the second time, you are mandated to pay a fine not exceeding $2,000 and/or a minimum county jail sentence of 10 days and a maximum of 6 months; and
- Any subsequent offense under this law will mandate you to pay a fine not exceeding $2,000 and/or serve a minimum of 90 days or a maximum of 6 months in county jail.
Meanwhile, the punishments will also vary if you have been previously convicted for gang-related crimes. As such, the penalties are:
- If you commit the crime for the first time, you are mandated to pay a fine not exceeding $1,000 and/or serve up to 1 year in county jail;
- If you commit the crime for the second time, you are mandated to pay a fine not exceeding $2,000 and/or serve a minimum of 10 days and a maximum of 1 year in county jail; and
- Any subsequent offense under this law will mandate you to pay a fine not exceeding $2,000 and/or serve a minimum of 90 days or a maximum of 1 year in county jail.
Call a Criminal Defense Attorney For Help
It is definitely not easy to challenge a loitering charge on your own. With that said, it would benefit you the most if you seek assistance from a criminal defense attorney here in California. They will discuss your case confidentially, give you the best options, defense, and advice to help you increase your chances of winning your case.
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