Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Regs Requiring Compliance with Federal Officers on Federal Property Can Be Enforced With Criminal Sanctions

U.S. v. Baldwin, 2014 WL 594036 (2/18/14) (Col.) (Published) - The 10th affirms convictions based on regulations requiring compliance with lawful directions of federal police officers on federal property and prohibiting impeding government employees' duties on federal property. In this case a commander of the Federal Protective Service stopped Mr. Baldwin on Denver Federal Center grounds to warn him about speeding. Mr. Baldwin stopped and then drove off despite commands to stop. Later he was stopped on the public streets where he refused to provide documents and was forced from his truck and handcuffed. The 10th holds the regulations did not just express policy but also could be enforced with criminal sanctions. Congress authorized regulations by the Department of Homeland Security that prescribe criminal penalties up to 30 days in prison and fines. See 40 U.S.C. ยง 1315(c). While the 10th suggests there might be separation of powers and Congressional delegation issues, Mr. Baldwin did not raise those. As for Mr. Baldwin's challenges, the 10th held the regulations were not too vague as applied to him, although they might be, the 10th suggests, if applied to someone who engages a federal employee in a conversation about ski conditions in the high country, which "might make criminals of us all". Even though the regulations don't mention a mens rea requirement, they probably have one and the trial court required that Mr. Baldwin "knowingly" fail to comply and impede. There was sufficient evidence Mr. Baldwin knew he was disobeying orders even though he testified he didn't hear the commands. Government witness testimony contradicted Mr. Baldwin. It was not plainly wrong to convict him even though there was no evidence the required notice of the regulations was posted. Courts were divided on the issue. And there was sufficient evidence Mr. Baldwin used his truck as an "obstacle" under Colorado law so that he was guilty of the Colorado offense of obstructing a peace officer and prosecutable under the Assimilated Crimes Act.