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Overenthusiastic Pokemon Go players may risk trespass charges

People gather for a Pokemon Go session in Hanover, Germany, 15 July 2016. EPA/PETER STEFFEN

Virtual creatures, it seems, are no great respecters of real-world property lines.

Pokemon Go players have strayed into cemeteries at all hours of the day and night. Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children says it has enough to deal with without players straying into hospital wards.

And the federal penitentiary system, which turns out not to be completely without a sense of humour, wants Pokemon Go players to stay off the grounds of federal prisons:

(Which penitentiaries found themselves swarming with imaginary creatures and the real people chasing them? Correctional Service of Canada spokesperson Esther Mailhot would only say they were in the Prairies and Quebec.)

READ MORE: How to play Pokemon Go: a guide for beginners

“Playing a video game is not a defence to trespass,” explained Toronto lawyer Doug Richardson.

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Trespassing is a provincial offence (like driving offences), which means that offenders face a fine, not jail time.

Trespassing at night at a house, however, can be an actual crime, though if your motives were more silly than sinister a Crown prosecutor may not bother to pursue charges, Richardson says.

So what should you do if you find someone wandering around your backyard, device in hand? (This map shows an abundance of PokeStops at private houses in Toronto.)

Click to play video: 'Not everyone in Vancouver is a fan of Pokemon Go'
Not everyone in Vancouver is a fan of Pokemon Go

One Vancouver man is fighting back against all the players showing up in his garden trying to catch Pokemon. Now his sign is getting international attention. Tanya Beja reports.

“If it’s daytime, and you’re not fearful for your safety, then you should ask them to leave,” Richardson said. “If they don’t leave, then it’s clearly a trespass, and you should call police at that point.”

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However, trespassing always carries the potential for confused violence.

“There’s always a worry, when you trespass, that the property owner might misunderstand your intentions there, and the player’s safety, and the property owner’s, may be in jeopardy at that point.”

“Will an owner overreact, or misunderstand what this person’s purpose is?”

The law does allow for a moderate use of force, if there seems to be no other way of getting rid of a trespasser, but if things get to that level you’re better off calling the police, Richardson said.

“If you were to take it into your own hands to physically remove someone, which in law you can be entitled to do, I would worry about that escalating.”

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