Is Train Hopping a Felony or Illegal in the US?
Train hopping conjures up images of the Old West, of hobo jungles and riding the rails. But is train hopping a felony in the United States? Here’s what you need to know before you hop on board.
The first thing to know is that there are three types of trains in the US: freight, passenger, and private. Freight trains are those that carry goods and commodities, passenger trains are those that carry people (think Amtrak), and private trains are owned by companies and not open to the public. It is only illegal to hop on a freight or passenger train; it is not illegal to hop on a private train.
That being said, there are still some risks involved with train hopping, even if you’re only hopping on private trains. For one, trespassing is technically against the law in most states, so if you’re caught on train property without permission, you could be charged with trespassing. Additionally, if you’re caught hopping a train, the conductor or another railway employee could charge you with theft of services—even if you weren’t intending to ride the whole way and were only planning on hopping off at the next stop. Depending on the state, this could be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
So what’s the best way to avoid getting into trouble when train hopping? The best bet is always to ask for permission first. Many conductors are happy to have someone along for the ride, as long as they’re not causing any trouble. It never hurts to ask—and it could save you from getting into legal trouble down the line.
Train hopping can be a fun and adventuresome way to see the country—but it’s important to know the law before you do it. In the United States, it is only illegal to hop on freight or passenger trains; however, there are still risks involved, such as being charged with trespassing or theft of services. The best way to avoid getting into trouble when train hopping is always to ask for permission first. So long as you play by the rules, you can safely enjoy all that train travel has to offer.
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