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Pee In Forest, Lose Your RKBA??? (Michigan)

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Travis McGee, May 9, 2004.

  1. Travis McGee

    Travis McGee Well-Known Member

    If a man relieves his bladder in the deep woods in the dark of night, when he thinks there's no one around, is it still indecent exposure? And does it give law officers a reason to search his car?

    No, a federal judge has ruled.

    U.S. District Judge David M. Lawson has thrown out evidence in a federal case against Donald Whitmore, 50, of Mio.

    The judge ruled that a forest ranger did not have just cause to search the vehicle Whitmore was driving even though she "observed the defendant answering an urgent call of nature, alfresco."

    Lawson ruled that the federal forest agent violated Whitmore's Fourth Amendment rights to be free of unreasonable searches. He took testimony in the case on March 8 in the U.S. District Court in Bay City and issued his ruling on April 14.

    The ruling substantially weakens the government's case against Whitmore, who is charged with carrying a firearm in a motor vehicle, drunken driving and indecent and obscene conduct in a public place.

    The weapons charge, a felony, is punishable by up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines. The other two counts are misdemeanors.

    The charges are based on events that occurred on Oct. 18, 2002, in the Huron-Manistee National Forest, in Oscoda County.

    U.S. Forest Service Officer Brandy Hill was staking out a section of the forest, just off Lemon Road near Briggs Road, watching for deer poachers.

    Shortly after 8 p.m., according to her testimony, Hill spotted a 1989 Nissan Pathfinder stop about a mile down a two-track from her hiding place. Hill slowly drove toward the vehicle, with her headlights off, and spotted Whitmore beside the vehicle, urinating.

    Whitmore finished his business and drove off. Hill sounded her siren, turned on her overhead lights and pulled Whitmore's vehicle over. She said Whitmore appeared intoxicated, nervous and irritated as he explained he and his friend, the passenger in the vehicle, were out for an evening drive.

    Hill spotted a .410 shotgun, which turned out to be loaded, between the two front seats of the vehicle, as well as opened bottles of liquor in the front seat area.

    Oscoda County Sheriff's Deputies responded to Hill's call for backup and administered a breath test to Hill, which revealed a blood-alcohol content of 0.13 percent - above the then-0.10 percent threshold for drunken driving.

    Hill was arrested, and on Sept. 24, 2003 - nearly a year later - was indicted on three federal charges. He is free on a personal recognizance bond while awaiting trial on the charges.

    Whitmore's attorney, Kenneth Sasse of Flint, filed a motion to have the evidence thrown out, claiming the search was unreasonable and violated Whitmore's right to privacy.

    Lawson ruled that, indeed, "the facts ... abundantly establish the defendant's actual subjective expectation of privacy in the Nissan Pathfinder, and that this expectation was legitimate and objectively reasonable," even though his wife, Maureen, was the registered owner of the vehicle.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Janet Parker contended that the ranger was justified in searching the car. Since the car belongs to Whitmore's wife, Whitmore himself had no expectation of privacy while in it, and also his behavior provided grounds for the search, she argued.

    "While public urination was itself an offense, the act also gave reasonable suspicion that the defendant may have been under the influence of alcohol," Parker wrote in response to Sasse's motion.

    But Lawson noted that Michigan law defines indecent exposure as "exposing private body parts when one reasonably might expect that they would be viewed unwantedly by others."

    "Certainly public urination in an urban setting would fall within the scope of Michigan's disorderly person statue," Lawson wrote. "Urinating in the wilderness presents an entirely different matter.

    "The act of relieving one's bladder in the woods is not uncommon in northern Michigan, and, ironically, it was repeated a short time later by the defendant's passenger with the assistance or Ranger Hill herself."

    Hill's testimony indicated that Kathleen Foreman, the friend who was with Whitmore that night, told Hill that she, too, had to "answer a call of nature" while the two were being detained. Foreman is disabled and required assistance.

    "Hill explained that because she was the only female on the scene ... she assisted the defendant's passenger in relieving herself in the woods," the judge wrote.

    Lawson concluded that Donald Whitmore's conduct was not illegal, and also did not support a suspicion that he'd been violating other laws.

    A jury trial is scheduled for Whitmore to start on June 1, although the judge's ruling will preclude evidence from the vehicle search and the blood-alcohol test from being admitted at trial.

    The Times was unable to reach Whitmore for comment.

    Neither attorney in the case returned messages left by The Times inquiring about the status of the case now that the evidence has been thrown out.

    Bay City Times, Bay City Michigan

  2. Nightcrawler

    Nightcrawler Well-Known Member

    The assistance....what, she helped? That brings humorous images to mind, doesn't it? :scrutiny:

    Anyhoo, I'll keep an eye out next time I take a leak in the woods. Don't want a forest ranger putting me in jail over it. :rolleyes:
  3. HABU

    HABU Well-Known Member

    Good thing he just went small. Imagine if he had to go big?:eek: :evil:
  4. Stand_Watie

    Stand_Watie Well-Known Member

    I'm more than a little concerned about this, it's per se a federal felony to have a firearm in your vehicle in a national forest? Are the highways that go through a national forest state land or federal?
  5. Josey

    Josey member

    Three problems. First, is there a federal DUI law to violate? Second, if the traffic stop was actually allowable. I see no reasonable probable cause. A federal officer cannot enforce state vehicular laws. Third, the possession of a loaded shotgun within a hands reach is technically a concealed weapon. If the only way that the federal officer discovered the shotgun was by the traffic stop which was not allowable, the weapons charge is null and void, fruit of the poisonous tree. I think that the USDA/USFS/DOI needs to train their federal officers better. I am afraid to even comment on HOW the federal officer assisted the disabled female to relieve herself.:what:
  6. crewchief

    crewchief Well-Known Member

    I like how they used public urination as a reason the suspect was under the influance of alcohol.:rolleyes: That is the most stupid logic in this whole case. Are you saying that people that drink water or gatorade or even soda don't ever get the urge to urinate. If thats the case then I might want to go see a doctor because I have a problem.:neener:
  7. Tamara

    Tamara Senior Member

    Step One: Make it illegal for felons to own firearms.

    Step Two: Make everything a felony. :uhoh:
  8. Shovelhead

    Shovelhead Well-Known Member

    FWIW,.....Around here, a road going through Federal or National Park property is considered Federal Land.
    Federal/Park Police CAN & DO perform traffic stops.

    I guess incidents like this are the reason that that we don't support the right to arm bears.
    Does a bear pee in the woods?.........:neener:
  9. Ryder

    Ryder Well-Known Member

    Disorderly? I've heard this can land you on the state's sexual offender list.

    Odds are the road was dirt and heavily forested. The reason these people got rousted was because she was bored. People in that area can shoot deer in their back yards. They certainly don't need to go out of their way to find the kind of trouble she was offering.
  10. JohnBT

    JohnBT Well-Known Member

    "...a .410 shotgun, which turned out to be loaded, between the two front seats of the vehicle, as well as opened bottles of liquor in the front seat area.

    ...a breath test to Hill, which revealed a blood-alcohol content of 0.13 percent"


    Hunting them little pink elephants was he?

  11. TallPine

    TallPine Well-Known Member

  12. BluesBear

    BluesBear member

    Only when necessary. :D
  13. kernal_panic

    kernal_panic Well-Known Member

    ok let me get this straight:

    Its night he and his girlfreind out drinking and driving in the WOODS.
    they stop cause he's got to pee. Dirt road middle of BFE IS NOT PUBLIC URINATION. So the officer 5280 feet away sneaks up on him wilst he is doing his business. He's in a national FOREST taking a pee, drinkin some beer and happend to have a snake gun with him since thats all a 410 is useful for anyway. and he gets chaged with weapons violations??

    i go shooting at the range in the Ocala National Forest all the time! are they saying its illegeal to have a gun in a national forest in michigan but not here in florida? i have even camped in the ONF and there are no stated regulations about not being able to posses a firearm there.
  14. JohnBT

    JohnBT Well-Known Member

    "...even though his wife, Maureen, was the registered owner of the vehicle."

    Do you figure his wife knew somebody at the Forest Ranger office and dropped a dime on him? She probably wasn't too happy he was out in her truck drinking liquor in the woods with his 'friend' Kathleen?

  15. Tamara

    Tamara Senior Member

    ...which is obviously a felony worth losing one's RKBA and voting rights over, of course, all in the name of a well-regimented society. :scrutiny:

    Hell, we've had a sitting president and a senator get away with worse. :uhoh:
  16. Standing Wolf

    Standing Wolf Member in memoriam

    Ding, dang, darn it all to heck and back! Stop giving the leftist extremists ideas, will you?
  17. jacketch

    jacketch Well-Known Member

    Step three: everything is a reason to search.
  18. sendec

    sendec member

    Is this a fight worth picking?

    Forest Service LEOs can and do make vehicle stops and subsequent arrests on a regular basis. Jurisdictions vary but typically state statutes are concurrent or assimilated by CFRs and local rules. Check out the Angeles National Forest and you'll see that they handle everything from littering to homicide.

    So we have a drunken driver cruising the backroads with that evening's special friend, a load of liquor and a gun and you call this a RKBA case? C'mon, really. The officer used the urination as PC. Who wants to bet that if he had'nt been drunk, with a truck load of booze with a side of broad, and a loaded gun, he would hve been sent on his way with the cautionary note that you never wipe with 3-lobed leaves?

    How many deer poachers do you think are found in exactly the same circumstances?
  19. c_yeager

    c_yeager Well-Known Member

    Um actually they were drinking and driving on a ROAD that goes through the woods. And furthermore how do you think they GOT to that road? And how do you think they planned on getting home?

    I don't have any problem at all with arresting drunk drivers.

    It may not be public urination but, if he is stumbling around and generally acting drunk then isn't it PC to do a stop?

    WOW this is spin worthy of the Brady Bunch. In truth he was DRUNK DRIVING and had a loaded long-gun on the FRONT SEAT at night. And BTW do you REALLY think that poachers are above using a .410?

    This guy makes a POOR poster child for our cause. It appears that he was off in the national forest getting loaded with his girlfriend and likely poaching game from his vehicle. Am i REALLY supposed to think he is one of the "good guys" just because he got charged with a weapons violation?
  20. mtnbkr

    mtnbkr Well-Known Member

    In the National Forests in Va, it is illegal to have a loaded gun in the car anytime or on your person outside of hunting season (unless it's concealed and you have a permit). Heck, it's technically illegal to walk down the forest roads (dirt roads at that) with a loaded gun during hunting season. It's considered "road hunting".


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