ON THE PROWL FOR INFORMATION ABOUT PROWLING
What exactly is PROWLING? The best answer to that question is: You know it when you see it. That is
how most police, prosecutors, and judges assess Prowling accusations. Prowling is all about context. If you read New Hampshire RSA 644:6, the law on Prowling, it says that someone is PROWLING when he/she:
[K]nowingly appears at a place, or at a time, under circumstances that warrant alarm for the safety of persons or property in the vicinity.
With that definition in mind, you might be wondering what kind of “circumstances” would cause or warrant someone to be alarmed by your mere presence in a given location. Rest assured, police and lawyers see plenty of circumstances where nosey neighbors and neighborhood watch-types report anyone who dares to walk down the street the moment the Sun has begun to set. Factors that should not be alarming or scary to anyone is your race, gender, accent, car, income level, hats, hoodies, or general appearance.
But (and this is a big but for sure), Prowling is one of those laws where how you are dressed may be relevant and permissibly considered by police. For example, if it is a hot, 100 degree July evening, and you are wearing head-to-toe black clothing, including a black-knit-ski-mask, all the while hiding in the corner with a black dufflebag that goes clink and clank when you set it down, passersby and police may justifiably be alarmed by your attire and present locaton.
That is not to say you are guilty of anything, but your lawyer will have a hard time convincing a judge that no one should have been suspicious or alarmed by you. The New Hampshire Prowling law, RSA 644:6, lists other factors that may justifiably cause someone to be alarmed such as:
(a) Takes flight upon appearance of a law enforcement official or upon questioning by such an official.
(b) Manifestly endeavors to conceal himself or any object.
(c) Has in his possession tools or other property which would lead a reasonable person to believe a crime was about to be perpetrated.
As you can see, Prowling is very much a crime that depends heavily on the circumstances by
which the Defendant or suspencted prowler is discovered and observed. At OSBORNE LAW we sometimes think of Prowling as a crime that falls somewhere between Criminal Trespass and Burglary. Please consider this:
If you walk across someone’s lawn without permission or if you are just hanging out in the
local convenient store’s parking lot, well-after closing time, you are most likely committing Criminal Trespass.
If you are breaking into the home after you walked across its lawn, or you are crawling through the window of the convenient store, you are committing Burglary.
If you are not breaking into the home or convenient store, but you are dressed in black, looking in the windows, and running into the bushes whenever a car drives by, you are likely committing the crime of Prowling. As you can see, Prowling is behavior that falls somewhere past TRESPASS but a few steps short of BURGLARY.
Of course, we can probably imagine other circumstances when you could be charged with Prowling,
without it necessarily having to be dark or late at night. For example:
One day you are seen hanging around an elementary school playground, in broad daylight, with a burlap sac. You are weaking a face mack and carrying duct tape. You are hiding in the bushes and watching the children play at recess.
This kind of behavior could also reasonably “warrant alarm for the safety of persons . . . in the vicinity.” Although at that instance, a charge of PROWLING may be the least of your worries.
At OSBORNE LAW, we are happy to help you and defend you against any Prowling arrests that have left you feeling alarmed and uncertain about your future.