Loitering Law & Legal Definition


Many states, cities and towns there are statutes or ordinances against loitering which aim to control aggressive begging, soliciting prostitution, drug dealing, blocking entries to stores, public drunkenness or being a public nuisance. Under such laws, the police can arrest someone who refuses to "move along." These laws are sometimes the subject of controversy by critics who claim they are used to target disfavored groups in violation of their constitutional rights.

The following is an example of a state loitering statute:

"A person commits the crime of loitering if he:

  1. Loiters, remains or wanders about in a public place for the purpose of begging; or
  2. Loiters or remains in a public place for the purpose of gambling; or
  3. Loiters or remains in a public place for the purpose of engaging or soliciting another person to engage in prostitution or deviate sexual intercourse; or
  4. Being masked, loiters, remains or congregates in a public place; or
  5. Loiters or remains in or about a school, college or university building or grounds after having been told to leave by any authorized official of such school, college or university, and not having any reason or relationship involving custody of or responsibility for a pupil or any other specific, legitimate reason for being there, and not having written permission from a school, college or university administrator; or
  6. Loiters or remains in any transportation facility, unless specifically authorized to do so, for the purpose of soliciting or engaging in any business, trade or commercial transactions involving the sale of merchandise or services; or
  7. Loiters or remains in any place with one or more persons for purpose of unlawfully using or possessing a dangerous drug."

This is an example of a Massachusetts statute which deals specifically with loitering in areas of public transportation:

"Whoever without right enters, remains in or loiters within a station, waiting room, or terminal of a public transportation facility, or upon the platform, stairs, grounds or other premises of a public transportation facility, after having been forbidden so to do either by notice posted thereon, or by the person who has the lawful control of said premises, or by a railroad, railway or railway express officer or by any police officer, shall be punished by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars and may be arrested without a warrant by such officer and kept in custody in a convenient place, not more than twenty-four hours, Sundays and legal holidays excepted, at or before the expiration of which time he shall be taken before a proper court or magistrate and proceeded against according to law."