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Can a Washington Capitals fan that throws a crab on the ice tonight in Las Vegas be charged with a crime?

June 7, 2018

The first crab to be thrown onto the ice at a Washington Capitals game occurred in 2011 (via Washington Post)

 

Crab cakes and hockey! That's what D.C. does! (Apparently).

 

Throwing objects onto the ice in celebration of big moments, especially in the playoffs, has been a tradition in the NHL for many years. The tradition began in Detroit with fans throwing octopuses, and has been followed with fake rats in Florida, rubber snakes in Phoenix, hamburgers in Ottawa, and catfish in Nashville.

 

Now, it looks like we might have a new tradition growing during the 2018 Stanley Cup Final: throwing crabs in Washington. Towards the end of Game 3 in Washington, a teenage Capitals fan threw a steamed crab over the glass and onto the ice to celebrate the Capitals taking a 2-1 series lead. [Click here for the full story]

 

The new ritual continued in Game 4 when a Evgeny Kuznetsov fan tossed another steamed crustacean onto the ice at Capital One Arena after the Capitals secured their third win of the series. Check out the video:

 

 

With the Caps one win away from winning their first Stanley Cup, the big question heading into tonight's game is whether any of the D.C. faithful will attempt to continue this tradition at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

 

But, if someone is able to pull it off, there is a chance that they will feel the wrath of some “crabby” Golden Knights fans—and potentially the law.

 

As we learned last year in Pittsburgh, it is one thing to partake in your team’s tradition on home ice, but very different to do so on someone else's turf. You may recall that during Game 1 of last year’s Stanley Cup Final at PPG Paints Arena, a 36-year old Nashville Predators fan threw a catfish carcass onto the ice—as was done many times at Bridgestone Arena during the 2017 postseason—and was charged by Pittsburgh police with three misdemeanors: (1) disorderly conduct; (2) disrupting a meeting; and (3) possession of an instrument of crime. [Click here for the full story]

 

While these charges were later dropped, it got me thinking what could a crustacean-throwing Caps fan be charged with if Las Vegas police takes this potential act seriously?

 

First, let’s take a look at the charges brought against the Predators fan last year to see if similar charges could be brought under Nevada and/or local law:

 

Disorderly Conduct

Under Clark County Ordinance Title 12 § 12.33.010, “[i]t is unlawful for any person to engage in any of the following acts of disorderly conduct: (a) Participate in a fight; (b) Challenge another person to fight; (c) Commit a breach of the peace; (d) Incite a disturbance; (e) Interfere with, annoy, accost or harass any other person which conduct by its nature would tend to incite a disturbance.”

 

Further, “Breach of Peace” under Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) § 203.010 is defined as when a person “maliciously and willfully disturb[s] the peace or quiet of any neighborhood or person or family by loud or unusual noises, or by tumultuous and offensive conduct, threatening, traducing, quarreling, challenging to fight, or fighting...”

 

It's probably unlikely that a Caps crab-thrower in Vegas would be found guilty of this crime since these charges are usually brought against people trying to start fights, protests, and other domestic disputes. As long as the Caps fan isn’t belligerently drunk and disturbing the game, they should be fine. (I mean, who goes to Sin City and drinks heavily anyways...).

 

Disrupting a Meeting

Under NRS § 203.090, this crime occurs when someone “without authority of law, shall willfully disturb any assembly or meeting not unlawful in its character…”

 

While a hockey game at T-Mobile Arena would probably be considered as a lawful “assembly or meeting,” it is unlikely that a crab on the ice would be considered as “willfully disturbing” the game, as long as it does not occur while the game is in action. Just imagine the outcry if a crab messed up a Jonathan Marchessault breakaway late in the third period of a tied game!

 

Possession of an Instrument of Crime

There does not appear to be a similar law in Nevada, Clark County, or Las Vegas. However, there is a Nevada law for “Possession of an instrument with burglarious intent.” So, possessing a steamed crab, even with the intent of throwing it on the ice or using it to commit some other crime, is not illegal (unless you're MacGyver and somehow find a way to use it as a burglary tool).

 

Now, let’s quickly see if there are any other legitimate crimes a crab-wielding Capitals fan could be charged with under Nevada and/or local laws:

 

Unlawful Trespass

NRS § 207.200 states “any person who, under circumstances not amounting to a burglary: (a) Goes upon the land or into any building of another with intent to vex or annoy the owner or occupant thereof, or to commit any unlawful act; or (b) Willfully goes or remains upon any land or in any building after having been warned by the owner or occupant thereof not to trespass, is guilty of a misdemeanor.” Further a sufficient warning against trespassing under this law includes the existence of a fence, which is defined as “a barrier sufficient to indicate an intent to restrict the area to human ingress, including, but not limited to, a wall, hedge or chain link or wire mesh fence,” or “[b]y the owner or occupant of the land or building making an oral or written demand to any guest to vacate the land or building.”

 

Like all sports arenas and stadiums, I assume before tonight's game that the public address announcer will tell the crowd that throwing anything over the glass and onto the ice is prohibited. This would be a sufficient warning for fans not to "trespass" onto the playing surface or commit any other sort of crime. However, it might be difficult to truly say that throwing a crab onto the ice was meant to annoy the owner or occupant of the arena (but it could definitely annoy some Elvis Presley impersonators sitting in the front row). However, when you do get caught, I'd highly recommend just allowing security to carry you away and throw you back onto the Strip with the other degenerates so you do not get charged with Unlawful Trespass.

 

Assault

Under NRS § 200.471, assault means “(1) Unlawfully attempting to use physical force against another person; or (2) Intentionally placing another person in reasonable apprehension of immediate bodily harm.”

 

Again, if the crab-hurler intends on pegging a player with a crab, especially during game action, they could be charged with a crime. However, regarding Assault, there is a real argument to be made whether a player wearing full equipment in a contact sport would reasonably fear immediate bodily harm in this situation. But hey, who knows if there is a player out there with an intense fear of seafood!

 

Littering

Las Vegas City Ordinance § 9.12.050 states that “[n]o person shall throw or deposit litter on any private property within the City, whether owned by such person or not, except in receptacles for collection in such manner that litter will be prevented from being carried or deposited by the elements upon any street, sidewalk or other public place or upon any private property.”

 

A person could legitimately be charged with this crime for throwing this shelled piece of "litter" onto the ice, but when was the last time you heard someone being charged with littering? I think the Las Vegas police has a lot more serious things to worry about (you never know when Danny Ocean is going to return!). 

 

In all seriousness, this post is not meant to encourage people to throw stuff on the ice during tonight's game or be taken as legal advice. This is mainly an attempt at humor, while providing a slight amount of "legal insight." I know if it were me, I'd much rather celebrate a Stanley Cup victory with friends instead of in a jail cell. But being a New York Islanders fan, you don't have to worry about me throwing any fish sticks onto the ice during a Stanley Cup game anytime soon.

 

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