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This question stems from an ugolord video who I know can be quite controversial.

In the video a prankster sets the alarms on all of the devices in an apple store to go off at the same time and then flees. Ugo makes the statement that the prankster entered the store to disturb the business and not to shop and therefore they are trespassing.

If this is true which part makes it trespass or both? Must you have intent to shop in order to enter a public business? Or is it just the disturbing the business part?

I know this is probably very unlikely to be enforced in most cases but is this actually written in some laws or set as precedent somewhere?

If you really must have intent to shop (not intent to purchase) in order to justify entering a public business wouldn't that technically make all sorts of common activities illegal? Entering simply to use the bathroom, going to gamestop just to play video games on the display console, etc

One could argue that going to gamestop just to play the console is both no intent to shop and disturbing business because you are preventing potential shopping customers from demoing products. I'm sure there are other examples of non pranks that fit both criteria but that is one I could readily come up with.

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  • every state in the us will have different and very specific laws about this, but I doubt any will consider going into a business without intent to buy a trespass. LA law specifies "implied authorization," which open doors in a business would be.
    – Tiger Guy
    Commented Feb 29 at 16:14
  • @TigerGuy Thanks. nitpick but again the words intent to shop are used and explicitly not intent to buy. Everyone knows you have no obligation to buy anything when you enter a business but it does sort of make logical sense that you might have to at least have good faith that you will consider to buy.
    – jesse_b
    Commented Feb 29 at 16:19
  • there might be some type of "intent to do bad acts" in some states but no one is getting charged with trespass for going into Target to meet their mom
    – Tiger Guy
    Commented Feb 29 at 16:36
  • @TigerGuy I agree, even in the case of bad acts there is almost no chance of being charged. In most cases the police will issue a "trespass" warning letting you know you are no longer allowed on the property and only if you violate that you will be charged. Intent to shop would also be almost impossible to prove (disprove). Whether or not it's actually a thing is curious to me though.
    – jesse_b
    Commented Feb 29 at 16:43
  • OTOH window shopping (no intention to buy) isn't trespass. There is no obligation to buy when you enter a shop or store. Commented Feb 29 at 20:40

2 Answers 2

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In (and some other jurisdictions) there is the concept of 'implied licence' or implied permission to be on someone else's private land. It is a type of 'bare licence'.

4.2 A bare licence is a personal permission, given otherwise than for consideration, to enter or be present upon somebody else's land. The grant of a bare licence performs the minimal function of providing a defence against the allegation of trespass - and even then only so long as the licensee does not overstep the ambit of the licence conferred (see e.g. Tomlinson v Congleton BC (2004) at [52] per Lord Hutton, [67] per Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough). In the famous phrase of Scrutton LJ, '[w]hen you invite a person into your house to use the staircase, you do not invite him to slide down the bannisters' (The Carlgarth (1927)). ...

4.3. A Bare licence can be created purely orally and may arise either expressly or impliedly. ...

Similarly [to the occupier of a dwelling-house], business premises are usually the subject of an implied licence permitting entry by members of the public for commercial or consumer purposes (but not, for instance, for the purposes of skateboarding ...

- Land Law by Kevin J. Gray, Susan Francis Gray, pages 97-98

Although you might not have been personally or explicitly invited to be on the land, you don't commit trespass so long as your behaviour is within the implied licence or any conditions printed on a sign or such.

Fundamentally this is about socially acceptable behaviour or legitimate business, such as you entering a neighbour's land to knock on their door for an innocent purpose (borrowing/lending something, asking about their well-being, giving them/asking for a package left with you/them etc) or entering a shop to browse or buy. You commit trespass if you enter your neighbour's land to use their barbecue and hammock without their permission.

A letterbox in your front door gives postmen implied licence to deliver letters through it - they don't commit trespass when entering your land to make a delivery. There's no implied licence to push rubbish through the letterbox. (For people unfamiliar with a letterbox, essentially it is a slot in the door - it can be made more complicated.)

A shop or shopping centre open to the public gives visitors an implied licence to shop (to browse or buy). There's no implied licence to enter the premises to disturb shoppers/the business or vandalise things etc.

If you really must have intent to shop (not intent to purchase) in order to justify entering a public business wouldn't that technically make all sorts of common activities illegal? Entering simply to use the bathroom, going to gamestop just to play video games on the display console, etc

It may well amount to trespass (a civil wrong or tort, not a criminal offence) to enter a shop just to use their toilet, loiter, play videogames, sleep on a mattress in mattress shop etc, set alarms of display mobile phones, or such.

The proprietor may put up signs that define conditions to be on the premises or certain areas of the premises - i.e. limits of the licence. E.g. "toilets are for customers only," "wi-fi is for customers only" or "be quiet while in the library".

Entering/using the premises for a purpose outside the implied licence and/or explicit terms is a trespass but the proprietor might not be aware of it. Even if the proprietor were aware, they may not care - they might welcome the footfall, given it may represent an opportunity to do business that would not exist if the visitor weren't present. Even if the proprietor were aware and did care, they might only ask you to leave and not immediately 'go legal'.

Generally speaking, it's up to the proprietor if she wants a visitor to leave and if a visitor refuses then there is no doubt they are committing trespass - they have explicitly or expressly lost permission to be there.

Committing trespass and intentionally obstructing, disrupting, or intimidating others from carrying out lawful activities is aggravated trespass, at s68 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

Some protesters have been found to have committed trespass or aggravated trespass on shops premises (e.g. inside shops or petrol station forecourts).

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You do not need “intent to shop”

But you do need to be there for a lawful purpose.

Any person who, without lawful excuse (proof of which lies on the person), enters into inclosed lands without the consent of the owner, occupier or person apparently in charge of those lands, or who remains on those lands after being requested by the owner, occupier or person apparently in charge of those lands to leave those lands, is liable to a penalty not exceeding …

s4 Inclosed Land Protection Act 1901

The person entered the shop to commit a tort (nuisance), that is not a lawful purpose and is beyond the implied consent:

The High Court focuses on implied limitations. A person’s general right to knock on your front door does not apply if they intend to, say, rob you, attack you, or interfere with your land - like dumping rubbish. With some qualifications, not only would this conduct breach the law, but actually entering the land with this purpose can also make that entry a trespass. The licence’s terms do not permit this – by implication it is limited.

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    You only need a lawful purpose if you don't have the owner's consent.
    – bdb484
    Commented Mar 1 at 15:35
  • @bdb484 the OP never mentioned the store had given the person permission to do what they did - they didn’t have permission.
    – Dale M
    Commented Mar 1 at 20:16
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    "Permission to do what they did" isn't an element; entry without consent is. There's no entry without consent, so there's no violation, regardless of whether there was a lawful purpose.
    – bdb484
    Commented Mar 3 at 15:20
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    You're still conflating distinct elements. The owner's consent to entry is a separate question from the entrant's purpose for entry. I don't know of any Apple store that makes an inquiry into each entrant's intent before making a decision to consent to entry. They consent to entry by the general public; if a guest's behavior becomes a problem, they may or may not choose to withdraw that consent.
    – bdb484
    Commented Mar 3 at 23:02
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    I get what you're saying, but as I understand it, the law just doesn't work like that in common-law jursidictions. Consent is not so much "inherently conditional" as it is revocable. If Apple doesn't like your prank, it can revoke consent -- but it can also laugh about the prank and enjoy some free social-media exposure. That's a decision that only Apple can make, and until it does so, there's been no change in consent.
    – bdb484
    Commented Mar 4 at 15:46

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