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  • Law for Backpackers

    LAW FOR BACKPACKERS 101

    The file that is "attached" here is the final version of my full Law for Backpackers 101 article, that began as a series of summarizations of topics with a lot of message debate in the "Straight Forward" Forum. It's in Adobe PDF format, which is easy to open, but if you can't, it is probably because you don't have Adobe "Reader." If that's the case, it's available on the Internet for free at Adobe.com.

    If anyone has suggestions, I welcome them, and comments about anything in here - pro or con - are welcome.

    I'd also appreciate you voting in the Poll above. It helps me with considering revisions.

    I hope this is useful to you. Thanks for letting me try.

    The Weasel
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Law for Backpackers started by The Weasel View original post
    Comments 130 Comments
    1. Brrrb Oregon's Avatar
      Brrrb Oregon -
      Quote Originally Posted by The Weasel View Post
      Someday, someone is going to get busted for this along the AT and get their life ruined when some bunch of kids is on the trail and sees some old bearded guy with nothing but a hipbelt across his front, and some prosecutor is going to realize that busting one Yankee thruhiker don't cost him any votes from the local Baptist Church come next election day.
      Absolutely. Watching too much Law & Order can give the impression that law enforcement is primarily interested in justice. I don't want to make any blanket accusations, but it is best to assume that you will find prosecutors and LEOs out there who are primarily interested in successfully racking up convictions. That is how a career is advanced in those fields.

      Besides, said prosecutor (and/or LEO) may be someone who happens to think that a conviction early in your life is preferable to letting you continue unrepentant in your evil ways to later burn in hell. He or she may be the parent of small children (or dating age daughters) who is not amused in the least by people who would indulge in antics like those described. They may even be convinced that such behavior makes it highly likely that you are EXACTLY the sort that Megan's Law was intended to target.

      When in Rome, at least take into account how the Romans think.
    1. Alligator's Avatar
      Alligator -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brrrb Oregon View Post
      ...
      When in Rome, at least take into account how the Romans think.
      Absolutely. And when in Vermont take into account how the Vermonters think .
    1. 7Sisters's Avatar
      7Sisters -
      Thank you for taking the time (I'm sure it was significant time), to create this document. I read portions and will use this as a reference if needed.

      I was pleased to see you included a section about dogs.
    1. mobileman's Avatar
      mobileman -
      Thanks for all your hard work Thanks to you also for giving it to so many for free. To those who disagree just to be disagreeable, its to bad you don't have anything better to do. Also realize that your sarcasm reflects badly on your own name. How would you like if people were nasty with you. Weazel keep up the good work.
    1. weary's Avatar
      weary -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brrrb Oregon View Post
      Absolutely. Watching too much Law & Order can give the impression that law enforcement is primarily interested in justice. I don't want to make any blanket accusations, but it is best to assume that you will find prosecutors and LEOs out there who are primarily interested in successfully racking up convictions. That is how a career is advanced in those fields.

      Besides, said prosecutor (and/or LEO) may be someone who happens to think that a conviction early in your life is preferable to letting you continue unrepentant in your evil ways to later burn in hell. He or she may be the parent of small children (or dating age daughters) who is not amused in the least by people who would indulge in antics like those described. They may even be convinced that such behavior makes it highly likely that you are EXACTLY the sort that Megan's Law was intended to target.

      When in Rome, at least take into account how the Romans think.
      I worked with LEOs on a daily basis for around a decade many years ago. In addition to the warnings you cite, a significant minority of cops abuse their power. When I served in a 200-man Military Police unit 90 percent of the physical alterations involved five percent of the unit. Drunks allegedly became violent with only a few of us. Those that did invariably were injured while being subdued.

      It was obvious to me that some MP's took pleasure in provioking violence. They got away with it because their is a code in law enforcement. "Don't rat on your fellow officers.."

      I observed the same behavior during the years I interacted daily with a civilian police force. A few officers liked provoking violence. Others would stretch the law and stretch the truth. I walked into the police station once as someone was being booked for being drunk. Another officer whispered to me, "that guy isn't drunk." But that is as far as the protest went. The guy spent the night in jail and paid his fine the next morning.

      Weary
    1. The Weasel's Avatar
      The Weasel -
      I'm in the process of doing some revisions to this article (go to the head of this thread and you should see it, if you're unfamiliar with it), and invite any comments or suggestions. There are two topics that I am most interested in that I'd like comments/information on, in particular:

      1) Drinking issues, including the recent issue in which people were ticketed on public lands.

      2) "Vagrancy" issues, including some towns in several places (not necessarily along the AT) which are restricting/prohibing "homeless" actions (which thruhikers can sometimes seem similar to) including begging (which sometimes "Yogi-ing" seems like), not having a fixed address, hitching prohibitions, and other similar things.

      If people have questions generally, ask them; I'll try to answer (others can too, of course) and questions can indicate things that I might put in the article.

      Rusty
    1. SGT Rock's Avatar
      SGT Rock -
      Bump -----
    1. smokymtnsteve's Avatar
      smokymtnsteve -
      Quote Originally Posted by SGT Rock View Post
      Bump -----
      Howdy to both of you, THE Weasel and ROCK
    1. rickb's Avatar
      rickb -
      If people have questions generally, ask them; I'll try to answer (others can too, of course) and questions can indicate things that I might put in the article.
      While the advise regarding trespassing may be well intentioned, it is not complete. In many places, there are no blanket prohibitions against walking on to private property that has not been properly posted.

      A quick google will provide a sense of things. Like here, for example: http://public.findlaw.com/http//real...espassing.html
      Check out NY, for example.

      When hiking off trail or exploring the nature in your own communities, one should always be respectful of your neighbors regardless of the law. But while its important to educate people on the law, lets not create more than we already have!

      If you hear an owl out your window, grab you flashlight and go for it. In many areas people may think you are nuts, but you wont be a criminal!
    1. Lone Wolf's Avatar
      Lone Wolf -
      my comment? this article or whatever it is, is not needed. decent, law abiding PEOPLE know what to do. hikers are different. entitled
    1. max patch's Avatar
      max patch -
      Quote Originally Posted by Lone Wolf View Post
      my comment? this article or whatever it is, is not needed. decent, law abiding PEOPLE know what to do.
      yup. exactly.
    1. The Weasel's Avatar
      The Weasel -
      Quote Originally Posted by rickb View Post
      While the advise regarding trespassing may be well intentioned, it is not complete. In many places, there are no blanket prohibitions against walking on to private property that has not been properly posted.

      A quick google will provide a sense of things. Like here, for example: http://public.findlaw.com/http//real...espassing.html
      Check out NY, for example.

      ***

      When hiking off trail or exploring the nature in your own communities, one should always be respectful of your neighbors regardless of the law. But while its important to educate people on the law, lets not create more than we already have!
      Rick:

      Thank you for that link. I'll do some modifying based on it, but note that (a) it mentions that trespassing is forbidden in all other states (even for hunters) even if land is unposted, which covers all AT states other than NY, MD and VT; (b) as to MD and VT, trespassing is permitted only under certain conditions for hunters, which would almost certainly mean someone in possession of a hunting license, during a hunting season, and that leaves out most AT hikers; and (c) as to most of the "exception" states (including my old home of Michigan) the listing relates only to hunters. The New York situation is much more "open" to anyone, although some land may be considered "improved" even if part of it doesn't look like it.

      Beyond that, though, trespassing still is pretty much forbidden, as the intro the that link says. While rarely enforced, such laws are there to be honored. They also result in major differences in treatment if a person is injured on someone else's land even if the owner is very negligent; trespassers get a very low level of protection from negligence.

      Thanks, though. This helps. I'll probably include the link in the revision.

      Rusty
    1. Heater's Avatar
      Heater -
      Weeeeeasy!
    1. rickb's Avatar
      rickb -
      Thank you for that link. I'll do some modifying based on it, but note that (a) it mentions that trespassing is forbidden in all other states (even for hunters) even if land is unposted
      That wasn't my reading, but having grown up in NY perhaps the things I learned as a boy are coloring my interpretation.

      In any event, I thought for sure that the posting requirement applied in other states. Maine comes to mind.

      For me, this issue has real-world implications so I find the topic most interesting. I hope I am right.
    1. weary's Avatar
      weary -
      It's my understanding that the law in Maine allows people to walk wherever they want, provided the land is not posted against tresspass, or unless the owners specifically tell you that you can't walk on their property.

      I know this has traditionally been true. But the Legislature has messed with the tresspass laws in recent years, and I haven't always followed the changes in any detail.

      I know the rules against tresspass by ATV's were strengthened slightly -- but not nearly enough.

      Weary
    1. The Weasel's Avatar
      The Weasel -
      Weary, I'm not going to make the article state-specific, for all 55 or so USA jurisdictions, and I'm not certain about Maine, but I took a look at Maine Statutes and it looks as if you are correct, at least as to people on foot. http://janus.state.me.us/legis/statu...2sec10657.html

      There are other provisions dealing with vehicles and loose dogs and other animals. I'm not getting into those things.

      I would guess that Maine law would also prohibit intruders from 'improved' lands, such as farm fields, home lawns, and other places that were neither fenced nor posted. But that's a guess right now. Still, it's a pretty safe one: You can't wander around someone's back yard just because it's not "posted".

      Thanks.

      rusty


      Quote Originally Posted by weary View Post
      It's my understanding that the law in Maine allows people to walk wherever they want, provided the land is not posted against tresspass, or unless the owners specifically tell you that you can't walk on their property.

      I know this has traditionally been true. But the Legislature has messed with the tresspass laws in recent years, and I haven't always followed the changes in any detail.

      I know the rules against tresspass by ATV's were strengthened slightly -- but not nearly enough.

      Weary
    1. MOWGLI's Avatar
      MOWGLI -
      Quote Originally Posted by weary View Post
      It's my understanding that the law in Maine allows people to walk wherever they want, provided the land is not posted against tresspass, or unless the owners specifically tell you that you can't walk on their property.


      Weary
      In NYS, that is true. And any No Trespassing signs need to contain the name and address of the landowner. If the name and address is not filled in on the No Trespassing signs, they can be ignored. Again, that's NYS. At least it was 8-10 years ago.

      Here in Tennessee, there is a home in Ooltewah with a HUGE sign on the gated driveway that says "Trespassers Will Be Shot. No Questions Asked."
    1. The Weasel's Avatar
      The Weasel -
      Quote Originally Posted by MOWGLI View Post
      Here in Tennessee, there is a home in Ooltewah with a HUGE sign on the gated driveway that says "Trespassers Will Be Shot. No Questions Asked."
      Possibly excessive. But local laws vary, so be careful where you walk!
    1. rickb's Avatar
      rickb -
      Quote Originally Posted by The Weasel View Post
      Possibly excessive.
      The best No Trespassing sign along the AT was on the fence to the National Zoo's breeding farm.

      Not sure if its still there. A real classic.
    1. rickb's Avatar
      rickb -
      Quote Originally Posted by The Weasel View Post
      I would guess that Maine law would also prohibit intruders from 'improved' lands, such as farm fields, home lawns, and other places that were neither fenced nor posted. But that's a guess right now. Still, it's a pretty safe one: You can't wander around someone's back yard just because it's not "posted".
      Looks like land in Massachusetts needs to be posted, too. But there are some exceptions in the statutes. Like Cranberry Bogs and Orchards.

      Glad we haven't gone overboard.
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