Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

Can I Play Pokemon Go If I'm on Parole?

Not if New York has anything to say about it. The state that brought you illegal stop-and-frisk polices, while at the same time trying (and failing) to make large sodas and fantasy football illegal, is now trying to criminalize playing Pokemon Go, at least for sex offender parolees.

"While children believe they are out to catch a Pokemon," wrote New York Senator Jeff Klein, "what might really be lurking could be a predator instead of a Pikachu."

Danger Lurking Behind Every Chandelure

Citing the game's "lure" feature -- which allows players to pay to encourage people to visit a certain location -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo wrote a letter to Niantic CEO John Hanke, asking for the game developer's help in barring some 3,000 registered sex offenders from playing Pokémon Go. "Protecting our children and ensuring their safety is our top priority," wrote the governor, adding, "Working together, we can ensure that this danger today does not escalate into a tragedy tomorrow."

The danger to which Cuomo refers is the proximity of Pokémon Go-related items like Pokémon, Pokéstops, or PokéGyms to the residences of registered sex offenders. A report released last week found 73 game-related locations within a half-block radius of 100 sex offenders' residences. The letter asked Niantic to prevent those on New York's sex offender registry from playing the game, and notified parolees that "downloading, accessing, or otherwise engaging in any Internet enabled gaming activities, including Pokémon GO," would violate the conditions of their probation.

Squirtle or Sex Offender?

Neither Niantic nor Nintendo have responded to the request as of yet. On its website, Niantic warns users: "You may use the services only if you are 13 years of age or older and capable of forming a binding contract and are not barred from using the services under applicable law." It appears that the new Pokémon Go prohibition for sex offender-parolees would be an applicable law, but we may have to wait until the first player/parolee files suit to enforce his god-given right to catch 'em all.

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