This past weekend, a woman participating in a cancer walk in Fort Lauderdale when she walked onto a railroad bridge.
While crossing the bridge, it began to open. The woman positioned herself on the bridge so that she could hang on while it rose over 20 feet. The rescue was captured on video and quickly circulated the internet.
Fire Rescue was able to get the woman to safety but now she may be charged with a misdemeanor.
Representatives from the railroad company are stating that there are several “no trespassing” signs around the bridge and that the general public does not have the consent of the railroad to cross it on foot. Apparently, the route for the cancer walk did not cross over the railroad bridge and that the woman crossed the bridge on her own.
Trespass on property other than a structure or conveyance is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 364 days in jail. Under Florida law, a bridge would not meet the definition of “structure” or “conveyance.” Trespassing in a structure (building) or conveyance (car) is only a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by 60 days in jail.
What will likely happen is that the police will refer the case to the Broward State Attorney’s Office who may make the ultimate filing decision. They will look to see how prominently the “no trespassing” signs were posted and whether the woman was aware or the fact that she was not authorized to cross the bridge. Simply being on the bridge, however, is evidence that she was trespassing. The state still must prove that notice that the property was not open to the public was given through signs or other postings.
Eric Matheny is a Miami trespass lawyer and Broward trespass lawyer.