When Sporting Events Go Wrong… What are Your Rights at a Stadium?

football stadium

Sports are our country’s favorite pastime and with football season in full swing, fans will be flocking back to the stadium to cheer on the players from the stands. But people are passionate about their chosen teams and tempers can flare, especially when alcohol is involved. Whether at an NFL stadium, a college tailgating party, or at a little league baseball game, things can get out of hand and people can get arrested. Let’s talk about some of these situations, and how to address them.

Trespassing in a Stadium or Park

Sporting events can be held on private or public property. Purchasing a ticket to an event on private property gets you access to the stadium and to your seat, but it doesn't guarantee everything. The fine print on a ticket creates a revocable license to be present on the premises. If your behavior gets out of hand, even if it is not a crime, the security at the event may choose to have you removed. Unfortunately, negotiating with security is not likely to get you very far. You’re better off complying with their requests, and then contacting the proper management at the facility once you are off-premises to review the incident. Continuing to argue or escalate the incident can have serious consequences, including any off-duty officers attending as security getting back on the clock. You may be notified that you are banned from the premises all together. Failure to leave the event or return to the event after this notice is trespassing, which is a misdemeanor crime for which you can be arrested and sent to jail. Although you are likely to have a short stay there, since this is relatively minor, it will not be a pleasant process.

Assaults and Fighting

Fights are common at certain sporting events, especially hockey games. But a fight in the stands is a lot less common. Fighting at a sporting event is a sure way to be banned from ever attending that location in the future. It can also result in various misdemeanor charges including Simple Assault, Simple Affray, Assault on a Female, and Communicating Threats. Any conviction of assault in North Carolina, even a misdemeanor for a public scrap like this, goes on your permanent record and can never be expunged. That means this behavior can have lifelong consequences for you. There will likely be many witnesses and video at such an event which may make things more difficult for your case. You are going to want to hire an attorney, like the award-winning lawyers at Jetton and Meredith, very quickly.

Alcohol-Related Offenses

Alcohol often flows freely at sporting events and with so many vendors and tailgating parties, people can easily be overserved. This results in poor decision-making aside from just running on the field in your birthday suit! Being intoxicated and disruptive is a crime in North Carolina.

Behavior that is disruptive under NC law includes:

  • Blocking or otherwise interfering with traffic on a highway or public vehicular area
  • Blocking or lying across or otherwise preventing or interfering with access to or passage across a sidewalk or entrance to a building
  • Grabbing, shoving, pushing or fighting others or challenging others to fight
  • Cursing or shouting at or otherwise rudely insulting others

In addition, you could find yourself charged with Disorderly Conduct for cursing or shouting and causing disruptions at a sporting event. Disorderly Conduct is engaging in conduct creating the threat of imminent fighting or other violence or using any utterance, gesture, or abusive language that is intended and plainly likely to cause a breach of the peace. These statutes are highly interpretive, and you may have defenses that an experienced attorney can help you with.

Officer Related Offenses

Finally, when officers get involved, you may be charged with additional offenses. Resisting, obstructing, or delaying an officer engaged in their lawful duties is a crime in North Carolina. That means failure to follow police commands, twisting away from them while they are arresting you, or even arguing with them could add an additional offense. Giving a fake name or ID to the police can result in charges for giving false or fictitious information to an officer. And if things get very rough, you may even be charged with assault on a government official. That is another non-expugnable misdemeanor that can have serious consequences.

Have you or someone you loved had a bad day at the ballgame? Does it feel like you’re facing sudden death? You’ll need a winning team. Call the attorneys at Jetton and Meredith at (704) 931-5535 and we will help you walk off with the best result.