Penal Code 653b PC | Loitering at a School

Penal Code 653b PC | Loitering at a School

Loitering at or near a school in California can potentially lead to criminal charges under Penal Code 653b PC. This law makes it a misdemeanor to loiter on or near school grounds without a lawful purpose. Let’s take a closer look at what constitutes loitering under 653b PC, potential sentences, and legal defense strategies.

Elements of the Crime

In order to convict someone under Penal Code 653b, prosecutors must prove the following elements:

  • The defendant loitered on or near school grounds,
  • The defendant was there without lawful business or purpose, and
  • The defendant displayed one of the following:
    • Disruptive or threatening behavior
    • Interfered with students arriving or leaving
    • Were under the influence of drugs or alcohol

“Loitering” simply means lingering or hanging around aimlessly. The law dosen’t require someone to cause an actual disturbance. Just being present without a purpose can constitute loitering.

School grounds includ the buildings as well as surrounding areas like sidewalks, parking lots, and playgrounds. The law can even apply to public sidewalks and streets next to a school.


A convition for loitering at school under Penal Code 653b is a misdemeanor offense. Potential penalties includ:

  • Up to 6 months in county jail,
  • A fine of up to $1,000,
  • Informal probation, and/or
  • Community service.

Subsequent offenses may result in felony charges and prison time under California’s three strikes law.

Legal Defenses

Some common defenses against 653b PC charges include:

  • Lack of loitering – For example, you were simply walking to your car or waiting briefly for someone. The law requires lingering without purpose, not just being present near a school.
  • Lawful purpose – You had a valid reason to be there, like picking up your child or attending an event.
  • No disruptive behavior – You weren’t disruptive and didn’t interfere with any students.
  • Misidentification – You weren’t the person loitering.
  • Entrapment – The police induced you to commit a crime you otherwise wouldn’t have.

An experienced California criminal defense lawyer can often get charges reduced or dismissed by challenging the prosecution’s evidence and raising reasonable doubt.

Related Offenses

Other laws related to schools and minors include:

Someone charged with one of these offenses may also face charges under 653b PC. An experienced criminal defense attorney can advise on defending against multiple charges.

Fighting Back Against Loitering Charges

Penal Code 653b PC aims to prevent disturbances and threats to students and staff. But the law can also impact innocent behavior like briefly waiting or walking near a school.

If your accused of loitering, don’t assume the police have an airtight case. A skilled California criminal lawyer can often get charges reduced or dismissed. They know how to fight back against questionable evidence and raise reasobale doubt.

With an aggressive defense, many people avoid the life-long consequences of a conviction. Don’t hesitate to discuss your case with an attorney experienced in beating loitering charges.