In this new series, we seek (nonbinding, fully disclaimed) legal opinions from practicing lawyer Kenny Ching on matters relating to the world of...
In this new series, we seek (nonbinding, fully disclaimed) legal opinions from practicing lawyer Kenny Ching on matters relating to the world of GOOD. Do you have a question? Leave a comment below or tweet @GOOD with hashtag "goodlawyer." So you want to wage peace and seed bomb that abandoned, litter-laden flowerbed on Central Boulevard. But in a disheartening moment of pragmatism, you wonder, "What will happen when the status quo's lawyers get their hands on me?"You could go to jail: If property is enclosed so as to exclude intruders, by knowingly and without permission entering, you may be committing criminal trespass. Hopping a fence counts, but so does throwing your seed bomb into someone's yard, even if you don't set foot there yourself.Fortunately, criminal trespass is generally a misdemeanor, not a felony. So even if you get convicted, you can still vote Nader next election or move to Canada if Jeb Bush becomes President.You could get sued: By voluntarily and intentionally entering another's property without permission (either with your body or with a thing, like a seed bomb), you could be found civilly liable. An argument on your behalf: your garden isn't hurting anything, so there would be no monetary damages. But, you might have to pay for the bulldozer that razes the trees you planted.Also, you might get sued, not for cash, but to get a court order prohibiting you from further trespassing. If you violate a court order, that's called contempt, and jail is a real possibility.You could get roughed up: Say a property owner catches you picking cigarette butts out of her yard without permission. She says "get," but you stay. She can now use reasonable force to eject you from her property. She should use as little force as necessary such as "gently laying hands upon you" (which sounds pleasant enough until you realize it's Old English for "bum rush"). She shouldn't severely kick you unless nothing less will do; under almost no circumstances should she kill you.You could become the new property owner!: Counterintuitively, some guerilla gardening activities (most likely something beyond seed bombing) could be a step toward joining the landed gentry. Adverse possession or its cousin, prescriptive easement, may allow you to become the garden's new owner. This lottery ticket of legal doctrines requires 1.) you must use the land as if you were its actual owner, and gardening it probably counts; 2.) your gardening must be visible for all to see-hoeing in secret won't do; 3.) you must exclude the true owner, so if you lay down grass, the owner can't use it for lawn bowling; 4.) your use has to be "adverse" to the true owner-if he gives you permission to be there, you're not adversely possessing, you're doing yard work for free; and 5.) you must use the property continuously for a time period prescribed by statute, usually five to 10 years.It's a long shot, but if you meet the criteria, the property is yours. Then we'll see how you like it when long-haired hippies start taking shortcuts across your yard.Correction: A sentence in this story used to read "Counterintuitively, your illegal activities could be a step toward joining the landed gentry." It was changed because it inaccurately suggested that seed bombing alone could lead to adverse possession. Disclaimer: This material is offered only for general informational purposes. It is not offered as and does not constitute legal advice or legal opinions. Although this information is believed to be current, we do not promise or guarantee that the information is correct, complete, or up-to-date. You should not act or rely upon the information in this material without seeking the advice of an attorney.Illustration by Johana Tran.