Jurisdiction On Military Base – New Supreme Court Ruling

A New Supreme Court Ruling Clarifies Jurisdiction On Military Base In Relation To 18 U.S.C. §1382

The United States Supreme Court issued an opinion in February regarding jurisdiction on military base issues in relation to a federal criminal statute making it a crime to reenter a military base once you have been ordered to stay off the base.

Vandenberg Air Force Base had been designated a “closed base,” meaning that civilians may not enter without express permission. The Air Force had granted an easement over two areas of the Base, with the result that two public highways traversed the Base. Adjacent to one of those highways was an area that the Government has designated for peaceful protests. The Base commander had enacted several restrictions to control the protest area and had issued an advisory stating that anyone who failed to adhere to the protest area policies may be barred from entering the Base.

The defendant had been barred from the Base for trespassing and vandalism, but continued to enter the protest area. He was convicted by a Magistrate Judge for violating 18 U.S.C. §1382, which makes it a crime to reenter a “military. . . installation” after having been ordered not to do so “by any officer or person in command.”

On appeal, the Federal District Court rejected the defendant’s arguments. However, the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that because the easement through Vandenberg deprived the Government of exclusive possession, §1382 did not cover the portion of the Base where the defendant protested.

The Supreme Court disagreed, however, holding that A “military. . . installation” for purposes of §1382 encompasses the commanding officer’s area of responsibility, and it included Vandenberg’s highways and protest area. The Supreme Court went on to hold that the statute is written broadly to apply to many different kinds of military places, and nothing in its text defines those places in terms of the access granted to the public or the nature of the Government’s possessory interest.

Essentially, the Government did not have to have exclusive possession over the property in order to enforce the statute. It is interesting to note that the area involved was under the concurrent jurisdiction of state and federal authorities. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court held that the federal authorities had the right to bar someone from entering the property.

United States v. Apel, Docket No. 12-1038

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