Near my residence in California, there is a shortcut road connecting two cul-de-sacs (on property owned by a university) which has a sign labelled "Service Vehicle Only" at the entrance. I see non-service vehicles passing through it frequently.

Question: Is the aforementioned sign enforceable?

I have found nothing in California law referencing service vehicle only laws. My best guess is that the only penalty one could receive for driving a car on this road would be trouble with the university--e.g. they could revoke your parking permit or something. Is this a correct analysis?


1 Answer 1


Being on someone's private property when you know the owner refused/refuses to give you permission to be there sometimes constitutes the crime of trespass. Depending on the circumstances, some additional formal elements can be required. However, if you're in a vehicle, my reading of the California statute is that intentionally driving it on a private road that is known to be closed to the public without the owner's consent is already enough to constitute misdemeanor trespass.

California Penal Code Section 602 starts out with

Except as provided in subdivisions (u), (v), and (x), and Section 602.8, a person who willfully commits a trespass by any of the following acts is guilty of a misdemeanor:

The following point seems relevant to me:

(n) Driving a vehicle, as defined in Section 670 of the Vehicle Code, upon real property belonging to, or lawfully occupied by, another and known not to be open to the general public, without the consent of the owner, the owner’s agent, or the person in lawful possession. This subdivision does not apply to a person described in Section 22350 of the Business and Professions Code who is making a lawful service of process, provided that upon exiting the vehicle, the person proceeds immediately to attempt the service of process, and leaves immediately upon completing the service of process or upon the request of the owner, the owner’s agent, or the person in lawful possession.

The wording "known not to be open to the general public" is fairly vague, and I don't know the specific ways this definition has been operationalized in case law, but I would guess that the sign would be sufficient, as it appears to pretty clearly indicate that the road is not open to the public.

In addition, if the university noticed you were using the road, they might specifically notify you that you were not allowed to do this (or have a police officer notify you of this), which I think would fall under Section 602 part (o) (1).

I found the following law firm websites that discuss the crime of trespass in California, penalties, and some of the common defenses:

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