Running onto a sports field, also known as rushing the field, pitch invasion or field invasion, occurs which a spectator crosses onto the playing area during a sporting event. While this act may be entertaining for other fans in the stadium or those watching the game from home, it can carry serious consequences for the offender.
At a minimum, a person who runs onto a sports field is almost certain to be ejected from the stadium. When someone is ejected from a game, the cost of the entrance ticket cannot be recovered. In cases where the offense is more serious or causes a greater amount of damages, the actor may face civil or criminal charges, since rushing the field could fall within the categories of trespass and criminal mischief.
Trespass is the wrongful act of entering another person’s property without permission. A property owner may sue trespassers for damages in civil court, and sometimes trespassing can be charged as a criminal offense.
In Nebraska, a person entrusted with protecting a piece of real property has up to four years following a trespassing incident to bring a civil case against the offender in court. The amount of money that a trespasser may be required to pay to a property owner depends on how much damage was done to the property. A person who rushes the field at a sporting event may be sued for the cost of restoring the field. The trespasser may also be sued for any lost use of the property, and the stadium owners may attempt to recover money from the trespasser for distress, discomfort or annoyance. If a person is alleged to have caused a significant amount of property damage, the trespasser may want to hire an attorney in Nebraska to defend him in civil court.
In Nebraska, criminal trespass is punishable as a misdemeanor. Anyone charged with a misdemeanor faces a maximum of one year in jail, a fine of $1,000 or both. Criminal trespass in Nebraska may be charged as a class I misdemeanor or a class III misdemeanor, the latter of which has a maximum sentence of three months in jail, a $500 fine or both.
The Nebraska Statutes provide affirmative defenses available to actors accused of committing trespass. The defenses that may be relevant to a criminal trespass charge for rushing a field are: 1) that the premises were open to members of the public and the actor complied with the lawful requirements to occupy the property, and; 2) that the actor reasonably believed he had license to access the property. These defenses are highly unlikely to work for someone who runs onto a stadium field, since a reasonable person would be expected to know that he did not have access to the playing field and that the field was not open to the public.
Another possible criminal charge for a person who rushes the field at a sporting event is called criminal mischief. To be found guilty of criminal mischief, a person must have been acting intentionally or recklessly in causing damage to the property of another, or the person must have intentionally tampered with the property in a manner that threatened damage.
If someone rushing a field is found to have caused more than $1,500 worth of damage to the stadium’s property and charged with criminal mischief, the accused may be charged with a Class IV felony. A Class IV felony is punishable by up to five years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both.
If the damages caused are between $500 and $1,500, the accused may be charged with a Class I misdemeanor. If the damages do not exceed $500 but are less than $200, the crime may be categorized as a Class II misdemeanor, which has a maximum sentence of six months in jail, a $1,000 fine or both. If damages do not exceed $200, the accused may be charged with a Class III misdemeanor. Depending on the seriousness of the criminal charges, a person accused of field rushing may opt to hire a Nebraska criminal attorney.
Austin Faux is a blogger and copywriter for Hauptman Omaha Attorneys Group. You’ll usually find me glued to the computer or on the phone during the work week. But when home I’m usually helping my wife relax, playing with my two kids and messing around on my nerd podcast, “I Am A Super Nerd.”