CRIMINAL ACTION NO. 02-288, SECTION "N"
November 15, 2002
ORDER AND REASONS
Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss Bill of Information [Rec. Doc. #6] filed on behalf of the defendant, Michelle Renney Guillie ("Guillie"). The defendant contends that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction as to Counts 1, 2, and 3. Defendant argues that because the alleged conduct described in those counts occurred outside of the national park, she did not violate federal regulations which are applicable to National Park Service territory. As to Count 4, the defendant contends that the rangers were without authority to make a warrantless arrest on account of her alleged misdemeanor conduct that was not observed within the park. The Government filed formal opposition. The matter was noticed for hearing on November 13, 2002. Neither party requested oral argument or an evidentiary hearing, and the Court has determined that there is no necessity for either an evidentiary hearing or oral argument. Thus the matter is deemed submitted for decision. For the following reasons, the defendant's motion to dismiss the bill of information is DENIED.
BACKGROUNDThe four count bill of information was filed on October 7, 2002, charging the defendant with various regulatory violations stemming from a vehicle stop by National Park Rangers in Marrero, Louisiana, just outside of the boundaries of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park, Barataria Preserve. The bill of information charges that on or about September 13, 2002, the defendant committed certain violations, to wit: (1) resisting a government agent in violation of 36 C.F.R. § 2.32(a)(1) (Count 1); (2) violating the lawful order of a government agent in violation of 36 C.F.R. § 2.32(a)(2) (Count 2); (3) disorderly conduct in violation of 36 C.F.R. § 2.34(a)(1); and (4) presence in a park area while under the influence of alcohol to a degree that may endanger oneself or another person, or damage property or park resources, in violation of 36 C.F.R. § 2.35(c).
On Friday, September 13, 2002, National Park Ranger John Szympruch ("Ranger Szympruch") observed a vehicle with a malfunctioning taillight driving erratically in the 6100 block of Barataria Boulevard within Jean Lafitte National Historic Park, Barataria Preserve. Ranger Szympruch observed the vehicle drift to the right three times between the 6300 and 6700 blocks of Barataria Boulevard. Each time the vehicle veered to the right, the tires on the passenger side dropped off of the pavement. Because the unlighted stretch of road was without a shoulder and had deep ditches on either side, Ranger Szympruch could not safely pull the vehicle over and investigate the vehicle's occupants within the park boundaries.
Affidavit of Ranger Szympruch, at ¶ 3.
Id. at ¶¶ 3-5.
Ranger Szympruch followed the vehicle, allowing it to proceed until both cars could pull safely off of the road. Approximately 300 yards outside of the park, in the 7200 block of Barataria Boulevard, Fellow Park Ranger Leigh Zahm ("Ranger Zahm") arrived at the scene when Ranger Szympruch pulled the vehicle over. Both rangers observed the defendant Guillie seated in the rear passenger seat holding an open 40-ounce can of beer. The rangers commenced writing a citation charging the driver of the vehicle, Patrick Franklin, with operating a vehicle with an open container.
Szympruch Affidavit, at ¶ 5.
Id. at ¶ 6.
Zahm Affidavit, at ¶ 5.
Szympruch Affidavit, at ¶ 6.
While Rangers Szympruch and Zahm were issuing the driver's citation, defendant Guillie stepped out of the car. Ranger Zahm smelled the strong odor of alcohol on her breath, and ordered the defendant to get back in the vehicle. She complied with the request, but later exited the vehicle a second time. Ranger Zahm told her to get back inside the vehicle again, and as before, Guillie complied with the officer's second request. However, when Guillie exited the vehicle the third time, she became verbally abusive, physically aggressive, and disobeyed the ranger's order to get back in the vehicle. When the vehicle's operator, Mr. Franklin, attempted to restrain Guillie, she broke free , told the rangers that she was walking home, and walked into the intersection of the Lafitte-Larose Highway.
Zahm Affidavit, at ¶ 6.
Id. at ¶ 7.
As the defendant walked into the intersection, Ranger Zahm grabbed her arm to prevent her from stepping into traffic. The defendant swung her right arm at Ranger Zahm. Then, with the help of Ranger Szympruch, Zahm handcuffed Guillie and placed her in the back seat of the patrol car. Because of her conduct during the investigation of Franklin during the traffic stop, the defendant was charged with the four misdemeanor violations set forth above.
Id. at ¶ 8.
Defendant first argues that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because the offenses complained of in Counts 1 through 3 occurred outside of the national park. The relevant jurisdictional statute provides that in order for a federal court to exercise jurisdiction over the action, the offense must have occurred within "lands reserved or acquired for the use of the United States, under the exclusive or concurrent jurisdiction thereof, or any place purchased or otherwise acquired by the United States by consent of the legislature of the State in which the same shall be, for the erection of a fort, magazine, arsenal, dockyard, or other needful building." 18 U.S.C. § 7(3) (defining the "special territorial and maritime jurisdiction").
Notwithstanding the foregoing, the basic function of a Park Ranger is to maintain law and order and preserve the peace in the national park to which he or she is assigned. To do so, National Park Rangers conduct regular patrols of National Park property and inspect for criminal activity. When prohibited activity is discovered or when probable cause to believe unlawful conduct has occurred, Park Rangers must secure the area to protect people and park property, and apprehend persons who precipitated the violations of the law.
United States Park Rangers have substantially the same powers and duties as other federal law enforcement officers. The authority of United States Park Police is set forth in 16 U.S.C. § 1a-6 (b) which provides in pertinent part as follows:
In addition to any other authority conferred by law, the Secretary of the Interior is authorized to designate, pursuant to standards prescribed in regulations by the Secretary, certain officers or employees of the Department of the Interior who shall maintain law and order and protect persons and property within areas of the National Park System. In the performance of such duties, the officers or employees, so designated, may —
(1) carry firearms and make arrests without warrant for any offense against the United States committed in his presence, or for any felony cognizable under the laws of the United States if he has reasonable grounds to believe that the person arrested has committed or is committing such felony, provided such arrests occur within that system or the person to be arrested is fleeing therefrom to avoid arrest;
(2) execute any warrant or other process issued by a court or officer of competent jurisdiction for the enforcement of the provisions of any Federal law or regulation issued pursuant to law arising out of an offense committed in that system or, where the person subject to the warrant or process is in that system, in connection with any Federal offense; and
(3) conduct investigations of offenses against the United States committed in that system in the absence of investigation thereof by any other Federal law enforcement agency having investigative jurisdiction over the offense committed or with the concurrence of such other agency.
Congress passed section 1a-6(b) to clarify any uncertainty as to the authority of park officers. H.Rep. No. 94-1569, 94th Con., 2d Sess. 5, reprinted in 1976 U.S. Code Cong. Admin. News 4290, 4291. In its report, the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs stated: "Law enforcement should be a function of the National Park ranger, along with a diversity of other protection concerns." Id. at 9, reprinted in 1976 U.S. Code Cong. Admin. News 4290, 4295.
In the case at bar, Ranger Szympruch's investigation began within the confines of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park. Given Ranger Szympruch's observations of the erratic driving pattern of the vehicle in which Guillie was riding, there was probable cause to believe the driver was under the influence to a degree that may endanger himself, others in or out of the vehicle, and/or damage park property. Additionally, there was probable cause to believe passengers content to ride in a vehicle driven in such an erratic and dangerous manner were similarly impaired or under the influence to a degree that was endangering themselves within the confines of the park. Under § 1a-6(b), park rangers are authorized to conduct investigations and make arrests for violations of the federal law. Federal law prohibits presence within a national park area when under the influence of alcohol to a degree that may endanger herself or another person and damage park property and resources. 36 C.F.R. § 2.25 (c); see also 16 C.F.R. § 3 (authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to promulgate regulations for management of national parks, and providing that any violations shall be punished by up to six months imprisonment or $500 fine). Defendant Guillie does not challenge the legality of the traffic stop itself. Ranger Szympruch allowed the car to pass the boundary of the park to ensure the safety of the investigation for all concerned, it otherwise being unreasonably dangerous to expect Mr. Franklin to halt on the shoulderless road.
See United States v. Jaramillo, 25 F.3d 1152 [ 25 F.3d 1146] (2nd Cir. 1994) (officer reasonably believed individuals in a private vehicle have some connection with one another for purposes of conducting a Terry-type frisk); see also United States v. Thorpe, 122 F.3d 1058, 1997 WL 434086 (2nd Cir. 1997) (unpublished) ( citing Jaramillo, supra, with approval and finding the park officer's pat-down search of the vehicle's occupants reasonable for purposes of the officer's own safety and to further investigating the drug offense).
Although none of the reported cases discuss boundary-crossing in precisely the same context presented in the case at bar, other courts have recognized the danger of eliminating federal jurisdiction solely because a suspect merely steps beyond the boundary line of the national park. In United States v. Fox, 147 F. Supp.2d 1008 (N.D. Cal. 2001), the district court held that the United States Park Police had jurisdiction to make a warrantless arrest of a motorist for drunk driving out side the boundaries of the Presidio. The motorist was driving drunk and speeding within the boundaries of the Presidio. The officer had probable cause to believe the motorist was driving under the influence within the park boundaries, gave chase, but executed the stop and administered field sobriety tests outside of the Presidio. In Fox, the defendant argued that the park officer lacked jurisdiction to arrest her for driving while intoxicated, because the factual bases for probable cause to believe the defendant committed the crime within the park developed outside of the Presidio. Finding nothing to commend in the defendant's proposal, the court explained:
It could unduly complicate law enforcement by requiring two sets of officers to be involved in the investigation and prosecution of many Presidio crimes. And it could lead to considerable mischief to law enforcement if a Park Police Officer could not secure immediate cooperation from the San Francisco Police Department. Finally, apart from her geographical argument, defendant offers no explanation of how she has been prejudiced by having been arrested by the Park Police as opposed to the San Francisco Police.Id. at 1010-11; see also United States v. Gibson, 896 F.2d 206 (6th Cir. 1990) (assuming without discussion that a Park Ranger had jurisdiction to arrest just outside a national park on drunk driving and related offenses where the defendant had been observed speeding in the park, failed to pull over in response to flashing lights, and instead continued to drive on until apprehended outside of the park).
Under 16 U.S.C. § 1a-6 (b)(3), United States Park Rangers have jurisdiction to "conduct investigations of offenses against the United States committed in that system" where there is no investigation by another federal law enforcement agency. The Sixth and Ninth Circuits have interpreted the provision as allowing rangers to conduct investigations outside of the physical boundaries of the park system where the offense being investigated was committed in the park. See United States v. Darulis, 1 F.3d 1242, 1993 WL 264676 (6th Cir. 1993) (noting park rangers' investigative authority is not limited by the statute to the park property); United States v. Smith, 713 F.2d 491, 494 (9th Cir. 1983) (noting that park police are authorized to investigate offenses committed within the park system, however, the geographic scope of the investigative authority is not restricted to federal property). In Darulis, the Sixth Circuit noted that there was no other investigation by a federal law enforcement agency and that the rangers were investigating a federal offense which occurred on park property. Although off of the premises of the park, the rangers had reason to believe that the van contained contraband or evidence of this offense, and therefore had authority to impound the van and secure a search warrant. Darulis, 1 F.3d 1232.
The foregoing ought to be sufficient, where here the unlawful conduct that triggered the chain of events occurred in the park, and was immediately followed by Guillie's inordinate haste to elude the investigation once Park Rangers executed the vehicle stop. Guillie's obviously intoxicated condition at the time of stop, refusal to remain inside the vehicle, aggressive, combative, and abusive conduct, including flight from the scene, if proven at trial, constitute at the very least a violation of 36 C.F.R. § 2.32(a)(1), which prohibits "resisting . . . or intentionally interfering with a government employee or agent engaged in an official duty." See United States v. Bass, 82 F.3d 811, 812 (8th Cir. 1996) (defendant's refusal to obey a park ranger's order to stand at the rear of the vehicle during ranger's investigation of defendant's license and issuance of a traffic citation constituted a violation of § 2.32(a)(1)). In addition, Guillie's alleged conduct disobeying a lawful order would constitute a violation of § 2.32(a)(2).
However, the defendant seems to urge yet another jurisdictional flaw. The defendant suggests that even if the United States has statutory jurisdiction to enforce park regulations which she allegedly violated, it lacks the authority to exercise jurisdiction in the manner which it did in this case. The theory underlying the argument remains unenlightened by the Property Clause. "Beyond doubt, the Property Clause authorizes the enactment and enforcement of regulations which, like those at issue in this case, are designed to maintain safety and order on government property." See, e.g., United States v. Gliatta, 580 F.2d 156, 160 (5th Cir. 1978) (emphasis added) (a post office case, wherein the Fifth Circuit recognized the Property Clause as a fertile constitutional source for rules and regulations regarding lands in or near the public domain). In Gliatti, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the defendant's conviction on two counts of improper conduct in a post-office and concluded that:
U.S. Const. art. IV, § 3, cl. 2 provides that "Congress shall have the Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State." See, e.g., Kleppe v. New Mexico, 426 U.S. 529, 542-43 (1976). In Kleppe, the Supreme Court directly recognized the power of Congress to regulate activities on nonfederal lands under the Property Clause. The Court observed: "While the furthest reaches of the power granted by the Property Clause have not yet been definitely resolved, we the Supreme Court have repeatedly observed that `the power over the public land thus entrusted to Congress is without limitations.'" Id. at 539 ( quoting United States v. San Francisco, 310 U.S. 16, 29-30 (1940)).
Crossing the yellow stripe, driving with excessive speed, ignoring the officer's commands, on property that blended into Miami property, turned out to be, not Florida, but Federal offenses for which appellant was fairly tried, convicted, and sentenced.Gliatta, 580 F.2d at 160.
While not at issue here, Congress specifically enacted legislation broadly designed to prohibit interference with, harm or threat to certain federal officials, including national park rangers. See United States v. Street, 66 F.3d 969, 974 (8th Cir. 1995) (citing 18 U.S.C. § 111 (a) (proscribing conduct resisting, opposing, impeding or interfering with any person designated under 1114 of that title while engaged in the performance of official duties)).
Being under the influence while in the national park, traversing the national park roadway that blended into Marrero, and thereafter interfering with the Park Rangers' investigation of the aforesaid offenses all turned out to be, not Louisiana, but Federal offenses with which the defendant is fairly charged in the Misdemeanor Bill of Information. The Court has subject matter jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C. § 3231, which provides that "district courts of the United States shall have original jurisdiction, exclusive of the courts of the States, of all offenses against the law of the United States."
Neither the facts of this case nor the applicable law suggest that the Park Rangers' investigation need be narrowly restricted to the driver of the vehicle alone. Upon executing the stop, probable cause existed with respect to the passenger Guillie, who was apparently heavily intoxicated, and had only moments before exited the park property in the erratically driven vehicle along with Franklin. There was probable cause to believe that Guillie was as influenced to an unlawful degree and disorderly while within the confines of the park moments before as she was when stopped only 300 yards outside of national park boundaries. Her unlawful conduct in allegedly interfering with the ensuing investigation made it difficult, if not impossible, for the Park Rangers to ignore the triggering unlawful conduct which occurred within the park.
Accordingly, and for all of the foregoing reasons,
IT IS ORDERED that the defendant's Motion to Dismiss Bill of Information is DENIED.