Is it legal to explore abandoned buildings?

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Author's Note: Is it legal to explore abandoned buildings?

Without a doubt, urban exploration is an intriguing undertaking, its motives often emotional, artful and of academic interest, its products often beautiful and revealing. And yet, the mentions of danger in this series are there for a reason: This intriguing practice is unsafe.

And often illegal, but many people will brush that off -- and really, what's a misdemeanor trespassing charge in the face of abandoned crypts and asylums? Bodily harm, though, is something different (I think), and my hope is that readers who are interested in urban exploring will also be interested in the physical risks involved. Death and injury in the course of exploring are not everyday occurrences, but neither are they so rare as to chalk them up to simple bad luck. Storm drains do flood unexpectedly. Unmaintained, century-old staircases do crumble. Open elevator shafts do disappear in dark, abandoned warehouses.

Do, then, keep in mind: There are many reports of urban-exploring deaths and near-misses. I just ran out of room.

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  • "Charges dropped against 16 occupiers of abandoned Capitol Hill building." CHS Capitol Hill Seattle Blog. June 5, 2012. (Oct. 16, 2012)
  • "Chase 5 found not guilty of trespassing in Broadway bank protest – UPDATE." CHS Capitol Hill Seattle Blog. March 16, 2012. (Oct. 16, 2012)
  • "Criminal Trespass." New Jersey Courts. Oct. 1, 2001. (Oct. 16, 2012)
  • Maher, Jared Jacang. "An Urban Explorer Gone." Westword. Dec. 20, 2007. (Oct. 18, 2012)
  • "Misdemeanor Trespassing." Misdemeanor Guide. (Oct. 16, 2012)
  • "Trespassing in New Jersey." New Jersey Esq. (Oct. 16, 2012)
  • "Trespass: Criminal Liability." US Legal. (Oct. 16, 2012)
  • "Vacant and Abandoned Structure." The City of Livonia, Michigan. Oct. 8, 2009. (Oct. 16, 2012)