The Legal Issues of Pokemon Go
- August 17, 2016
- The Law Office of Greg Tsioros
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Staying Out Of Trouble While Playing Pokemon Go
If you have watched the television news or checked social media lately, you have likely heard about the Pokemon Go craze. This massively popular video game has already been downloaded tens of millions of times across the world. There is no doubt that it is a smash hit with people of all ages.
However, the nature of this video game has led to some concerns about potential legal issues. It is an “augmented reality” game, which means that players interact with real locations in the environment as they play. News reports have mentioned several instances of injuries and potential law violations from players who were too absorbed in the game to notice their surroundings. Read on to find out the potential legal issues of Pokemon Go and how you can stay out of trouble.
The Problem With Pokemon Go
Many people have made positive statements about this new game. Some say it encourages people to get out and exercise rather than playing a game at home on the couch. Others are pleased that it encourages social interaction from young people who are usually absorbed in social media and smartphones.
Unfortunately, the game can have negative effects as well. A person who plays the game uses their smartphone to hunt for special creatures that they can capture. They find these creatures by interacting with real-life landmarks, buildings and locations. Their smartphone camera uses special software to overlay the game world with the real world, which is called “augmented reality”.
You don’t have to think too hard to imagine the problems this game might cause: dozens of players walking around in public with their eyes glued to their phones makes for a potential safety hazard. In addition to the risk of personal injury, Pokemon Go players might find themselves facing legal penalties.
Potential Legal Problems
Although the developers of Pokemon Go have encouraged players to obey the law and pay attention to their surroundings, some problems are bound to arise. This is especially true considering that many of the players are teenagers or even younger. Some potential legal penalties could include charges of:
- Personal injury
- Property damage
Here’s a breakdown of how these criminal charges could be related to misuse of this popular video game.
In Texas, there is no excuse for entering or remaining on property which belongs to someone else. Pokemon Go players won’t be able to claim that they were simply playing a game if they are caught trespassing.
According to Section 30.05 of the Texas Penal Code, a person can be charged with criminal trespass if they enter or remain on private property without the consent of the property’s owner.
For example, if a person playing the game hops over a fence in order to catch a new creature, they may be in direct violation of the law if they enter someone’s front yard or pasture without permission. This law applies whether or not “No Trespassing” signs are posted.
In Texas, a conviction for a criminal trespass violation may lead to up to one year in county jail and a fine of $4000 depending on type of property that is illegally entered.
This game unfortunately creates a big risk of personal injury. Any activity which prevents people from paying full attention to their surroundings may increase the likelihood of a dangerous accident that causes injury. Because this game requires players to stare at a phone screen while moving, players can quickly become walking safety hazards to themselves and others.
For example, if a player is walking down a bike trail to find new creatures, they may accidentally step into the path of an oncoming cyclist. This could result in a serious accident that causes severe injuries to both parties. The injured cyclist may file a civil lawsuit against the player, claiming that their recklessness directly led to severe injuries.
In addition to civil lawsuits, a person could face criminal charges if they create a public nuisance or engage in disorderly conduct while playing the game, especially if it leads to the injury of another person.
One of the most frequent complaints that property owners have about players of Pokemon Go is that these players damage property while playing the game. The game uses historical landmarks and public buildings as sites that offer a chance to earn points and power-ups to players.
Players that aren’t paying attention might damage a historical landmark or groups of rowdy players might engage in horseplay that damages private property.
For example, if hundreds of players walk all over a historical site without paying close attention, they could disturb a location that is maintained by the government. This could lead to civil penalties as well as charges of criminal mischief.
In Texas, a conviction for criminal mischief can be penalized with a $500 fine all the way up to a year in jail and a fine of $4000.
Play It Safe
When enjoyed properly, Pokemon Go is a great way for players to have fun and meet new friends. However, in order to avoid injury and potential criminal charges, players should always stay aware of their surroundings, take frequent breaks from gameplay and exercise common sense and good judgement at all times.
Have you been charged with trespassing or disturbing the peace? Attorney Greg Tsioros can ensure that your rights are protected. Contact his office today at 832-752-5972.