How Walking Can Land You in Prison

Walking is such a healthy, wonderful activity, right? But you may find yourself on the wrong side of the law, risking a ticket, fine, or arrest.  Not all of these moving violations will land you behind bars, but you may get a summons to appear in court.

Why Did the Walker Cross the Road? Jaywalking

Don't Walk Signal
Don't Walk Signal. © Thinkstock / Stockbyte / Getty

Guilty, your honor.  I jaywalk, as do many of my readers according to a poll. I've had many near-death experiences while legally crossing with the pedestrian sign — drivers turning right, drivers turning left, drivers who don't see me in the crosswalk. I think crossing farther down the street where there are only two ways to look for traffic might be safer. Luckily, this is not a felony. If you wish to avoid a ticket, cross only at marked crosswalks and obey any pedestrian signals.

Where Am I? Trespassing

No Trespassing Sign
No Trespassing. Wendy Bumgardner ©

Whether you are following your nose, a map, or a GPS, you can end up where you shouldn't be. I've followed what appeared to be a public path and ended up in a gated community, facing the security guards. You may end up staring down the wrong side of a shotgun wielded by a distraught homeowner who thinks you are a burglar or peeping tom after following a path that ended in their backyard.  Keep an eye out for "Private Property" and "No Trespassing" signs whenever you turn off the sidewalk. Do not trust maps (printed or GPS) to tell you whether a street or path is public or has restricted access. You may land you in jail and need bail.

Don't Take Your Guns to Town — Weapons Violations

Pepper Spray and Knife
Wendy Bumgardner ©

You may be carrying an illegal weapon and not realize it. Maybe that pepper spray was legal in your neighborhood, but it isn't when you go downtown. Your Swiss Army knife was legal and useful until you detoured through City Hall to admire the new mural, then it became a terrorist's weapon. You may have a concealed carry permit for a firearm, but it may not be allowed when you take a path through school property. To stay out of jail, you must research and know the law in each jurisdiction you are walking through.

Please Don't Eat the Daisies — Destruction of Public Property

Maine Baxter State Park - Girl Jumping Creek
Maine - Baxter State Park. Russell Kaye/Sandra-Lee Phipps / The Image Bank / Getty

Take only memories and leave only footprints. Don't pick wildflowers on public property. They are there for all of us to enjoy. Stay on the path and don't trample the grass or shortcut the switchback. Control your pet. Teach your children to love and respect nature, not to uproot it and take it home. If you violate this one, you deserve the ticket or a trip to prison, in my book.

They Won't Miss It — Theft

Wallet on Ground
Wendy Bumgardner ©

Have ever picked an apple, tomato or daffodil from a neighbor's yard, without their permission? Stop, thief! Have you found a ground score that had a rightful owner you should have tried to return it to? Maybe it's "finders keepers, losers weepers," but maybe it's theft.  You need to be sure anything you take home has truly been abandoned.  Otherwise, you may be explaining it to the judge while wearing an orange jumpsuit.​


Public Urination
Wendy Bumgardner ©

We folks with smaller bladders who like to take long walks can find ourselves on the wrong side of the law. While a quick trip to a nearby bush may seem innocent, there are places where that can get you arrested and, in the worst case scenario, charged with a sex crime.


I'm Going to Get You For That! Assault

Pole Wielding Attacker
Pole Wielding Attacker. Wendy Bumgardner ©

Assault is defined as words or actions that cause others to think you are threatening to harm them. How can this happen? Say I'm walking down a sidewalk when a driver backs swiftly down her driveway, almost hitting me.  I scream and wave my fist at her, followed by waving my walking poles at her.  She hits 911 on her car phone. Now I've got to tell it to the nice policeman.

Let's Get Physical — Battery

Arm Hit with Pole
Wendy Bumgardner ©

Battery is an intentional contact with another person that causes harm or is offensive. Let's take the same situation as above — a car almost backs over me on the sidewalk. The driver gets out of the car, and we start yelling at each other. I am so upset that I spit on her. That is offensive and may lead to a battery charge. Or, I may poke her with my walking pole to get her to back off. That definitely is battery.  Don't let the pedestrian equivalent of road rage send you to prison. A safe retreat is the better part of valor.

Roaming Wild and Free — Leash and Scooper Laws

Dog Walkers
Dog Walkers. © EdCorey /

Dog walkers need to be aware of the leash and pet waste laws wherever they roam. Tickets and fines are possible, as are lawsuits if your dog bites anyone.  Maybe you won't go to jail, but your pet may be impounded if it attacks a person or another dog. Be a responsible companion to your pet and follow pooper scooper laws faithfully.  Train your pet to heel and walk on a short leash.

Stopping for Too Long — Loitering

Sitting on Bench at Glacier National Park
Sitting on Bench at Glacier National Park. Wendy Bumgardner ©

You've finished your long training walk and now you're enjoying sitting in the park, people watching.  But Officer Friendly taps the bench with his nightstick and tells you it's time to move along.  You're no longer resting, you're loitering. Walkers can also run afoul of curfew laws, park opening and closing times, and other local laws intended to keep people from setting up camp. It probably doesn't help that you are sweaty, smelly, and wearing a ratty old t-shirt. Just thank the nice officer and move along.