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Pokémon GO: The New Craze That May Result In Legal Ramifications for Many


Last month Pokémon GO was released in the United States, and a new craze was quickly born. Pokémon GO is described as an augmented reality game that was created for users to play on their cell phones. The game is based on the Pokémon franchise, a Japanese company owned by Nintendo. Players of the game create their own Pokémon trainer whose purpose is "to catch 'em all," as well as to battle with other trainers and win Pokémon Gyms. Pokémon are animal like monsters, in fact the name Pokémon is actually short for the original Pocket Monsters. There are approximately 151 different Pokémon roaming around homes, businesses, parks, schools, airports, and anywhere else a person may travel. Some of these Pokémon are more rare than others and thus more difficult to find. Additionally, in order to catch a Pokémon, a player must first acquire supplies such as poke balls to catch or eggs to hatch them, which are located at several different "poke stops." A poke stop can be found at several different types of locations, they may be monuments, businesses, homes, bodies of water, etc. Though the game seems harmless, it has caused quite the uproar across the country amongst both enthusiasts and adversaries. Pokémon GO has been cause for several legal questions and has even resulted in charges for crimes across the country.

The main issue with Pokémon GO has been the location of some of these Pokémon and poke stops, where they pop up, and the lengths players will go to catch a Pikachu (a highly sought after Pokémon.) Foremost is the issue of trespassing. Players will often cross into a neighbors yard or a prohibited area with complete disregard for their crime, either because they are unaware what they are doing is an offense, or because they are so engulfed in the fantasy world of Pokémon that they are undeterred by potential legal consequences. Moreover, parks and public places are often hot spots for both Pokémon and pokestops. While this is potentially a positive thing during the day and operating hours of these spaces, loitering and after hours entry has become a serious issue in some areas. Many players are receiving loitering and after hours tickets, usually because they are unaware what they are doing is unlawful in their city.

Additionally, Pokémon GO has created a group of individuals who are unmindful of their surroundings, viewing the world through their phones in hopes that a rare Pokémon will appear. This causes a danger to those playing the game, and those around them. There has been an increase in accidents due to players who are cashing in on pokestops as they drive, and pedestrians who are oblivious to oncoming traffic as they attempt to catch Pokémon in the streets. This obliviousness by players has also created an influx in robberies as these individuals become easy targets. Some are blaming the game itself for placing Pokémon and pokestops in dangerous places, such as the middle of a highway, or a dangerous neighborhood. Niantic, the creator of Pokémon GO, has attempted to limit both their liability and the related issues that have surfaced surrounding Pokémon GO, by issuing alerts at the start of the game such as, " remember to be alert at all times," "stay aware of your surroundings," and "do not play Pokémon GO while driving." Unfortunately the alerts issued by the game likely fail in deterring committed players from doing whatever it takes to catch 'em all.

Moreover, Pokémon GO is creating potential legal troubles for those who are not even playing the game. Individuals, who have not chosen the location, may live in a place that is a Gym or Pokestop. This creates a potential risk of registered sex offenders being surrounded by children playing the game. Some States, such as New York, have even attempted banning the use of Pokémon GO by sex offenders for fear the game may be used for the purpose of luring children to a location with several Pokémon.
Ultimately, Pokémon GO has the capability of stirring up a lot of unsuspected trouble for its players and innocent bystanders. The easiest way for those who have been swept up in the world of Pokémon to stay out of trouble is to, be aware of the laws in the areas where you are playing, note what time of night you're in a public place and when they close, make sure to avoid any no trespassing areas, and keep aware of your surroundings at all times. 

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