Augmented reality games that require moving around and interacting with the virtual world are extremely popular, but are quite dangerous when playing from your car.
The new Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, along with classics like Pokemon Go an Ingress encourage you to explore the world and gather objects and resources, but are unsafe if you are also trying to drive, and can even lead to criminal charges.
In the past, we’ve seen reports of police across the nation getting calls about players prowling neighborhoods in search of Pokemon. There is also concern about people gathering on church property, which is used in the game as gyms where players gather to compete.
Graveyards with monuments are also often pokestops, but may have restricted access, besides being disruptive and offensive. And places like Arlington National Cemetery, the 9/11 Memorial, and the Holocaust Museum are naturally not places where players are welcome.
Trespassing and distracted driving are the key criminal risks you will face if you are careless while playing the game.
Trespassing on Restricted or Private Property
When hunting a rare Pokemon to add to your collection, serious players will track these beasts across neighborhoods and through private property. Or you could be asked to leave a store or place of business for playing the game. Some pokestops might be in private complexes, business parks, or restricted to residents only.
Trespassing on private property could result in the police getting involved. Most trespassing charges are not serious charges but are still criminal violations with a theoretical maximum of 30 days in jail.
Some public parks or wildlife refuges may be technically closed at certain hours, or after dark. Even if they aren’t fenced off, you can still be charged with trespassing.
In addition, there are public areas restricted for security reasons, such as public water supplies, electrical utility stations, or public highways, roads, and bridges restricted for pedestrian traffic.
Trespassing on public property is a misdemeanor offense.
Distracted Driving and Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle
Using your phone while driving is already a serious concern on the roads. Texting, messaging, or holding your phone while driving for any reason is considered Distracted Driving, a civil penalty.
More serious is a charge of negligent operation of a motor vehicle, a misdemeanor offense. Negligent operation, or Operating to Endanger is a criminal charge that will usually result in a criminal citation to a clerk magistrate’s hearing. The result of which is that you could be formally charged with a crime, arraigned and entered into the system.
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite and Reckless Driving
While Trying to get spell energy in Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, you might be tempted to hit up some Inns while driving post. Or even try to collect a quick foundable.
But doing so could cause an accident and result in a reckless driving (negligent operation) charge.
Pokemon Go & Reckless Driving
While it is tempting to hit up those pokestops to add to your supply of pokeballs as you are driving by, it is a dangerous and illegal practice.
A resulting accident with almost certainly result in a criminal citation for negligent operation (reckless driving).
The driving patterns for Pokemon players are likely quite obvious to the police. Besides the normal distracted driving signs, such as drifting lanes or having to apply the brakes quickly, people playing the game will be:
- Pulling over abruptly to grab a pokemon.
- Slowing down at certain places along the road to hit pokestops.
Police on patrol in the regular neighborhoods will see these signs, and know where the regular stops are.
The game developer, Niantic, and Nintendo have recently added a warning message about playing and driving. However, they currently don’t do anything to prevent the game from being playable while behind the wheel, and obviously moving at speeds indicating you are in a car.
There are also reports around the country of thieves staking out pokemon hotspots, such as pokemon gyms and pokestops. Players are urged to pay attention to people around you and don’t wander around at night by yourself in areas you are not familiar with. Robbers know the spots people will be drawn to.
If you are facing any criminal charge, please call us for legal help. We can usually help you avoid a criminal record over something dumb like playing a game carelessly.