I noticed that many places, specially in the United States, have fences separating two streets, even for pedestrians. My guess that the streets are not connected for cars to calm the traffic on residential streets and to relieve congestion on main roads, but the segregation for pedestrians also seems more to intend to lengthen the trips for people walking, thus forcing them to use cars instead. Since both sides are public spaces, thus crossing those forbidden passages does not seems to constitute trespassing at first, but would that constitute another violation?

Here is an example of such kind of fence

  • Do you have any example of such a fence (in Google's street view, perhaps)? I am unfamiliar with fences like the ones you describe.
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 22:02
  • Just added in the question a link to such case. Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 22:07
  • That's likely not public, but private land. If it is public, the fence may have been erected to stop people jay-walking because there's not a marked crosswalk there. I've seen fences in center medians to force bus riders to not jay-walk but use the nearest crosswalks. example
    – mkennedy
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 23:27
  • @mkennedy The cul-de-sac turnaround on the other side of the fence appears to be a public street (Barber Ct); it has a sidewalk. The viewpoint is located on California highway 237, which also has a sidewalk, separated from Barber Ct by the fence.
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 0:17
  • This fence even has a hole on it, which means that many people crossed it already. I've seen these all over the place. My question is: if people jump it is this a violation of law or is this just a purpose built obstruction without legal value? Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 0:35

1 Answer 1


"Public space" is not a relevant criteria when considering trespass or other crimes/torts against property. The relevant criteria is who owns it and what they allow you to do on it.

All land in the USA is owned by someone. That someone may be a government; that does not make it a public space - Camp David is owned by the US government; it is certainly not public.

The owner of the land can decide (subject to the law) who has access to their land and in what circumstances. If they erect a fence then they are saying "You cannot access my land here" - if you ignore this then you are trespassing. This is true even if there are legitimate ways to access the land i.e. there is a place where there isn't a fence; to avoid trespass you would have to access the land from there. If you think of this in terms of a public building like a courthouse you are free to enter through the unlocked front doors but not by climbing through a window.

The trespass is in the act of crossing the fence - that is the act that you have been implicitly denied permission to do. Being on one side or the other is not trespass.

For the specific image that you show it is quite likely that those roads are owned by different people - the highway is probably owned by the state while the cul-de-sac is a local government road.

  • What if both roads were owned by the same authority? Does road network constitute a huge single public property or each street is a separate public property? Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 0:56
  • "Public" is irrelevant. If you want to know how many titles the road network occupies its at least 1 and probably less than 1 per road. As to how this links to your original question - it doesn't matter - the owner of a property can drop a fence through the middle if they want.
    – Dale M
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 1:06
  • 1
    @GabrielDiego I don't think it matters who owns the roads. They are both open to the public. Dale M: Access to neither side of the fence is forbidden. One can walk around the long way: google.com/maps/dir/37.4238208,-121.9191651/…. Does that change the answer?
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 1:53
  • @phoog The trespass is in the act of crossing the fence; not in being on one side or the other.
    – Dale M
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 3:27

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