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Charged with Federal Crime: pay the fine, or fight it?

Discussion in 'Legal' started by io333, Apr 3, 2005.

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  1. io333

    io333 Member

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    So there I was yesterday, in the National Forest, just driving around on my day off. I went down one dirt road, then another, then another and the road stops at a beautiful grassy field. "A beautiful place to fly my kite" I thought. (I keep a kite in my trunk).


    So there I am flying my kite, (really) and a few minutes later appears Mr Park police who informs me that the "field" is actually a "pipeline," and that it was "obvious to anyone that knows anything about pipelines."

    Huh?

    Also, that the "road" I was on was an "illegal road" cut by "illegal hunters" and that I was not allowed to be on it. OK, sorry, I'll leave. Nope, here is your ticket. :rolleyes:

    There were no signs anywhere on the way I came in. I went down another road for a while to see *** was going on, and then could see that at a different entrance to the field, was a sign saying there was a pipeline under the field.

    I'm charged with a violation of 261CFR54a

    http://frwebgate6.access.gpo.gov/cg...docID=527615144688+45+0+0&WAISaction=retrieve


    On the ticket is written "Entering Area Closed to Motor Vehicles"

    I was just going to pay the ticket ($100), but then I got to wondering if there were any weird implications for this. It's a misdemeanor, but if this is going to start popping up on NISC or messing up my CCW/etc background checks, obviously I'll need a lawyer to fight it.
     
  2. Preacherman

    Preacherman Member

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    If the area was not signposted, and there were no indications on the road banning vehicles, I'd fight it. Be sure to get good photographs of the area as it is NOW - just in case someone puts up a couple of signs a week before your court date!

    A letter to the local authority concerned, or the U.S. Attorney, might be a good place to start.
     
  3. io333

    io333 Member

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    In my heart I want to fight it, but the reality is that I'd have to drive 150 miles to show up for for court at some as yet unspecified date, which would probably fall on a day that really messed up my incredibly busy life -- and that it would end up costing me a heck of a lot more than $100.


    It's pretty easy to just write out a check and mail it in.
     
  4. io333

    io333 Member

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    And I'd also have to do another 300 mile round trip to the area to document everything.


    :scrutiny:
     
  5. io333

    io333 Member

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    And in case anyone was wondering, I wasn't off-roading in some kind of monster truck, I was in a freaking honda sedan.
     
  6. Brett Bellmore

    Brett Bellmore Member

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    Remember all those guys who pled guilty to "domestic violence", because the fine was cheaper than hiring a lawyer? And now they can't legally own guns?

    Fight it. The fine today might be cheaper than the fight, but you never know what new penaties they might dream up a decade from now, to impose on you long after you've made the choice to pay that fine.
     
  7. ksnecktieman

    ksnecktieman Member

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    IF the road you drove in on is not posted with a sign, I think you should go the extra mile, for yourself, and all of us. Make a trip there with a video camera and film the route you drove to where you got the ticket. Make a copy of the video. Write an informative letter to the responsible court telling them it had no sign, and request that the ticket be voided, and include it with the video copy, registered mail, to the court.

    If you are going to do it, do it soon, before the seedling signs grow to full height, they will grow very fast if the ticketing officer knows they were missing.

    I am NOT going to tell you to tell the judge you have vacation coming from your job, and you will refuse to pay the fine, you will take time in jail, and let the feds feed you for ten days:). Which is what I would do, the judge has to decide where to use his limited resources. Make his expenditure too high to bother with you.
     
  8. mike1966ga

    mike1966ga Member

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    I think this falls under the three rules........
    Admit nothing, :cool:
    Deny everything, :rolleyes:
    Make counter accusations. :scrutiny:
    In other words "Fight it"
     
  9. R.H. Lee

    R.H. Lee Member

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    Ditto what Preacherman said. You were on public land. There was no sign prohibiting vehicles on the road you accessed with your Honda sedan. If you don't want to travel back up there with a video camera, look into filing an affidavit with the court. Maybe some legal beagle will come along here and explain the details.
     
  10. shermacman

    shermacman Member

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    I vote fight it. You have no idea what that $100 fine might add up to in the future. I read "pipe line" and immediately think that they have you on a Federal terrorist list. When you photograph/video tape the road, make sure you get a shot of your Honda. Make sure there is a child safety seat in the back with the kite.

    Send it all in with a short (read "cheap") letter from an attorney. Let the judge know you are taking this seriously. As previous posters have said, make the judge look at this as a stupid parking ticket in the midde of a woods.
     
  11. Graystar

    Graystar Member

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    Pay it. You were in the wrong.

    Yes, there were no signs. But aren't there usually signs on the roads you're supposed to be on? The lack of signs should have tipped you off that you were someplace you shouldn't have been. I'd be very surprised if you weren't thinking that as you were driving down this sign-less road.

    The case will turn on whether your action was intentional / result of negligence, or if you reasonably believed you were not violating any restrictions. For example, if you park your car at a curb where there is no parking, but the “No Parking†sign is gone, then the ticket gets tossed because it’s the state’s (or city’s or town’s) responsibility to keep the signs in good repair. However, if someone can prove that you knew there was supposed to be a sign there, the ticket will stand. For example, if the owner of the store in front of the no-parking area testifies that you had asked where the No Parking sign had gone, then that is proof that you intentionally parked in a no-parking area.

    Most likely the judge will rule that you should have realized that something was not right.
     
  12. 2nd Amendment

    2nd Amendment member

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    :what:

    I...uh...huh?! (thinks about local park area) There's occasionally a sign saying where the next lake is. other than that, nada. There certainly are not signs everywhere and a sign in such locations is unusual for its very presence... As usual, I hope I'm just missing the punch line here.

    Whatever, fight it. There is no "wrong" to be in here.
     
  13. Bear Gulch

    Bear Gulch Member

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    I would say fight it. They have an obligation to set up gates or signs. These are PUBLIC LANDS! FIght it. Out there they have gone in an established tank traps across fire roads to prevent access to aid in Grizzly recovery. I am a volunteer Fireman. Now we'll get blamed if it burns even though we cannot get equipment in.

    The USFS management has been coopted by the eco freaks who want no use of these areas.
     
  14. Graystar

    Graystar Member

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    If the roads generally don’t have signs, and this illegal road (and its turnoff) has a look that is consistent with the park’s legal roads, then he might have a case...just like the person that parks illegally but the no-parking sign is gone. But if he takes a video of the road and it is markedly different from the legal roads of the park, he’s gonna lose.
     
  15. justice4all

    justice4all Member

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    Letting the judge know that you intend to fight it will make no difference. It's the AUSA prosecuting the case that matters. If he or she knows you'll be fighting it, he or she might decide there are bigger fish to fry, and dismiss the case. Or they might not.

    In CO, if there is no sign saying its a true Forest Road, that generally means it's an illegal road, and off-limits.

    Are you sure it's a misdemeanor, and not some lesser offense or infraction?
     
  16. shermacman

    shermacman Member

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    I am going to take a wild guess that you live in a large Northeast city...! Lack of signs? There aren't any signs on my street for over a mile, yet there seem to be houses and other cars...we may all be committing felonies, but I doubt it!
     
  17. ALHunter

    ALHunter Member

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    Fight it

    I am a lawyer and I recommend you fight it. I don't deal in traffic/vehicle cases, but I know enough about that system to tell you to fight it.

    Some thoughts:
    1. you seem to want to just take the easy road and pay so you don't have the hassle of driving back a few times. Well, why post your original question then? If potential problems with your CCW is not outweighed by you having to take time off from work and drive 150 miles one way, I don't understand the original post. If there was a fantastic sale at a gun shop or gun show for something you really wanted, my guess is that you'd not hesitate to drive the 150 miles one way. IMO this seems even more important and thus even more worthwhile making the drive for and taking time off.

    2. follow all advice above and go get video AND photo evidence ASAP. Make sure the photos have a date-stamp on them. Make sure you photo/video your car so it is unmistakeable you weren't there off-roading. Photograph the clothes you were wearing that day. If Mr. Ranger claims you were dressed in head to toe camo you can rebut that.

    3. If it was an "illegal road" like Mr. Ranger said, some questions at court I'd have would be: Well, if it was an illegal road (a) why wasn't that posted [remember you'll have your photo & video proof showing it wasn't], (b) how long have you known it to be an illegal road?, (c) what have you done to prevent criminals or law-abiding citizens from traveling down this illegal road?, (d) how many other folks in your shoes has he ticketed? If a lot, and nothing done to post signs or prevent access to the illegal road, he looks foolish in the eyes of the judge.

    4. Mr. Ranger, just like all LEO's, can exercise discretion. The fact that you were in a Honda sedan and actually flying a kite and he still ticketed you, IMO, shows he's a jerk. This assumes you were polite, professional, and nothing else was wrong with you, your vehicle, and how you conducted yourself. Thus, Mr. Ranger should be called to explain himself in front of the judge.

    5. Last, if this was federal land you may appear in front of a federal judge or federal magistrate. Whatever your thoughts on the judiciary are, be assured that as a whole, federal judges/magistrates have a lot better sense than state court judges. Thus, you may fare a lot better if you do get your ticket adjudicated in a federal forum.

    Just my .02.
     
  18. Tory

    Tory member

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    It is a simple analysis:

    What you tolerate, you validate;
    What you put up with - you DESERVE! :eek:
     
  19. Coltdriver

    Coltdriver Member

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    I would see if I could not arrange to speak with the prosecuting attorney or the equivalent of the DA for your court.

    You can often get stupid charges tossed with a visit or a phone call. I have done it with several tickets.

    Alternatively I would fight it but of course you know the cost of that to you in time off, mileage etc. Good luck!!
     
  20. TimRB

    TimRB Member

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    "It's a misdemeanor, ..."

    Are you sure about that? That is, I'm sure it's not a felony, but if it really is a misdemeanor rather than an infraction I would see a lawyer about it immediately. Misdemeanors are not as serious as felonies, but they can't just be blown off, either.

    FWIW, even if it's an infraction I would fight it.

    Tim
     
  21. MikeIsaj

    MikeIsaj Member

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    So let me see if I understand this. You were willing to travel 300miles round trip to fly a kite but not to defend yourself against an unfair accusation that may affect other rights you exercise? Yes, I understand kite flying was not your objective but, do you get my point?

    Talk to an attorney. This may very well be resolved without a court appearance.

    If you received a summons, it is probably a summary offense, less than a misdemeanor.

    I'm sure I'll get scolded for this but the theory that you should have known it wasn't a legal road because it wasn't signed as a legal road is just plain silly. On public land, permitted access is assumed unless clearly marked otherwise.
     
  22. deanf

    deanf Member

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    You've obviously never driven on Forest Service land.
     
  23. GhostRider-Nine

    GhostRider-Nine member

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    Oh brother. He was wrong for being in the wrong place on the kings land huh? Signs on roads in a big National Forest? Are you kidding? Most of the time they were either never there, or torn down by vandals a long time ago and never replaced. This fellow was NOT in the wrong, and should fight this tooth and nail. :banghead:

    BTW, did you know that ignorance of the law IS an excuse? The only time its not is in the case of "mala en se laws"....meaning something evil in itself, not just something regulated like no parking signs. After all, we all know that murder rape and mahem are wrong, but who could be expected to know the hundreds of thousands of assnine laws on the books.
     
  24. Jeeper

    Jeeper Member

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    Graystar,

    All of us here in the west know that there arent sign on 90% of forest service roads. Arizona has thousands of miles of fire roads that are legal to drive on but have no signage at all. I guess NY isnt that way.
     
  25. Fletchette

    Fletchette Member

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    Well, in the words of several of the law-and-order types here, "If you can't do the time don't do the crime". :barf:

    This is exactly the type of thing that I have long complained about. Many of today's "crimes" should not be a crime at all. I received a letter threatening a Federal warrant for arrest to be issued for me for something almost as silly - I camped on the wrong side of a trail. I had a permit and honestly did not think anything was wrong. Little did I know the permit was only valid for one side of the trail (North side was ok, south side was 'verboten'.) I was within 50 feet (not yards) of a sign that said "campsite", no sign on the south side. I paid the ticket by mail, and two months later I received a letter for failure to pay. I had to drive all the way back to the ranger station and straighten things out.

    I'd get a lawyer immediately. The few hundred bucks you spend might just save you your citizenship.

    It shouldn't have to be this way.


    Soon, we will hear politicians ask, "Why do you need to keep a kite? "
     
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