In three days I was run off land I was taking pictures on. A new record. Once by a public official and one by a private security guard. (Who had a K9 with him.) Some thoughts.
Anyone patrolling and protecting private or public land gets hard from dealing with thieves, vandals, squatters, pot growers, and people off-roading where they shouldn’t.
As such, you are most likely deemed a profiteer no matter what you are doing. If I have a camera, the question is always, “Are you a professional? Are you selling these photographs?” If I am rockhounding, it’s always, “Do you make money off of this?” Sigh.
My attempts at explaining are always seen as arguing. It puts these people immediately on the defensive. You don’t not want to do that. I say what I am doing, I am always friendly, and I always leave an area as asked. It doesn’t matter if I am right or not, I do not want to fail what cops call the attitude test.
Law enforcement can throw you into jail for almost anything. Whether the charges stick, that’s another matter. Right now, you are in jail. A police officer puts you in jail under what are called booking charges. They can be practically anything. It’s the district attorney (or whatever other official is tasked with prosecutions), who decide what the final charges will be. If any.
In questions like trespass, the DA probably doesn’t want to even consider the case. You may be fined with no further jail. The DA may be more mad at the police officer for bringing them another case that isn’t a priority. To that point, a policeman also doesn’t want to develop a history of jailing people on minor charges who get immediately released.
I belong to the Public Lands for the People and have a bumper sticker for them on my truck. They advocate getting all sorts of information from the officer in case you are stopped. I don’t ask for an officer’s full name. If I need to, I’ll get their license plate number. That will be enough to identify them later on. Less confrontation.
Speaking of names, if you mention someone in their agency, be prepared to have that name. “I know someone.” “Okay, Jack, who?” A printout is best, don’t be stuck by the side of the road searching through your e-mails on your phone. I carry printouts of current rockhounding regulations for both the BLM and USFS in my truck, along with the rules for collecting in Wilderness Areas. I have printed out my correspondence with certain state and national level BLM and USFS officials, along with their phone numbers.
Anything on paper is far better than describing it. If you want to try to explain yourself. Which, again, may seem argumentative and confrontational. Your call. Good luck.
Oh, if you are doing something really debateable, get the business card of a criminal defense lawyer and keep it in your wallet. Pay for an hour of their time to introduce yourself and tell them what you are doing. Find someone who practices criminal law, nothing else. They are very different from other lawyers. And get the business card of whatever bail bondsman that attorney recommends. Just saying.
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