Your Right to Detect on Public Property

Your Right to Detect on Public Property

It might surprise you that I rarely ask for permission to hunt public property.

Why?  Because it is PUBLIC PROPERTY.   And as a member of the public, I asked myself if I could detect and after some thought decided to say “Yes.”  Seriously though:  “metal defectors” that trespass and deface the public domain and otherwise disrespect our hobby have screwed this up for all of us. More and more cities and counties are banning detecting and many many more frown on it.  Another reason is that, unless you are related to someone in some position of authority, municipal and county personnel will almost always say “no” whether you make the request in person or via the phone, email or letter.

Usually they will say if they let you they would have to let everyone, and will send you an excerpt of code that usually only peripherally backs them up if you twisted the meaning around.  Heck, I can’t say that I blame them.  They don’t have anything to gain and who knows what would happen to them if a problem arose and they were identified as the one who told me “Sure.  Knock yourself out.”

municipal code

Pursuant to something in one of these old binders down at City Hall, the answer is hell no.

Do Your Homework

I have better things to do than get involved in a quagmire like that – things like metal detecting.   Though I do not ask, I work to make sure that detecting is not explicitly prohibited on city property as is the case in Franklin, Tennessee for example.   If detecting isn’t explicitly not allowed by law then I feel I am within my rights, and I am not creating an objection by asking.


I’m gonna just email the city and ask ’em if I can detect the park.

I go to Google and enter the city name (or county name as appropriate) plus “metal detecting” to see if I get a direct hit on an ordinance or code governing detecting. If I don’t find anything, I’ll find the municipal or county website and search the codes and ordinances concerning use and access of public properties.

Be Prepared 

I will print out a couple of relevant codes – as evidence I did my homework, and to make my case if challenged – and stuff them in the glove box of my vehicle. I will then detect while assuming I have a right to and handle challenges confidently and respectfully.  Sure I may get “run off” but asking likely isn’t going to reduce the likelihood of that happening.

Be Discreet and Respectful

I try to detect public areas that have heavy foot traffic, like parks, during off hours – typically very early in the morning to avoid being seen as a disturbance.   I wear headphones to avoid my detector being a noise nuisance.  I comply with any and all posted signs and rules.  I’ll make a show out of picking up trash.   I am extra careful with my recovery and try to leave no trace whatsoever that I was there.  If anyone shows up and even looks upset or unhappy that I am there, I’ll just go somewhere else.

Covering My Back

I certainly do not know how the use of public property is governed in every situation all over the world.  I not offering legal advice here.  Just stating how I practice my own right to detect public property.  If I am corrected in any given situation I readily comply with authority.   Consult an attorney for legal advice covering public property in your area.


I’m not an attorney.  I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night though.

Dig Deeper:   For more ideas on getting permission, check out these articles:

What to Do When Your Right to Detect is Challenged 

Raising the Ante on Permission


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