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United States v. Taylor

United States District Court, D. Colorado

January 2, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
DUSTIN TAYLOR, Defendant.

          ORDER

          N. REID NEUREITER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         1. INTRODUCTION

         This matter came before the Court on December 21, 2018 for trial. Mr. Dustin Taylor was charged on August 10, 2018 by citation with camping in a prohibited area, in violation of 16 U.S.C. § 552 and 36 C.F.R. § 261.58(e). This Court has jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C. § 3231.

         Prior to trial, the Parties conferred and jointly agreed that there are no disputed issues of fact. The only contested question in this case, as framed by the parties, is whether, under the stipulated facts, Mr. Taylor “camped” in a prohibited area by sleeping overnight in his car.

         The decision of the Parties to stipulate to facts and certain agreed-upon exhibits, and not present any witnesses who might have been able to answer follow-up questions, certainly reduced the time and effort necessary for the presentation of the case. The Court is appreciative of the cooperation of counsel and the expedited nature of the evidentiary presentation. However, as described below, the inability of the United States to flesh out some of the evidentiary questions raised in the Court's mind by the evidence that was presented may have been responsible for leaving the Court with reasonable doubts as to whether all elements of the offense had been proved against Mr. Taylor. As a result of these reasonable doubts, the Court must acquit Mr. Taylor of the charged offense.

         2. FACTUAL FINDINGS BASED ON STIPULATED EXHIBITS, STIPULATED FACTS, AND ADDITIONAL FACTS CONCEDED BY THE PARTIES AT TRIAL

         Prior to argument, the Parties stipulated to the admissibility of ten government exhibits, which included, among other things: the citation itself and the accompanying Statement of Probable Cause; photographs of the location where the citation was issued (including photographs of posted “no camping” signs); an e-mail (presumably from a Forest Service representative) stating that parking in the location is not itself prohibited; a picture of a sign stating “NO CAMPING, CAMPFIRES, OR SHOOTING WITHIN ¼ MILE OF THIS ROAD”; and various maps and diagrams showing the location where the citation was issued in relation to the Cache La Poudre River and the Stove Prairie Road.

         The following facts were stipulated by the Parties, either pre-trial submissions, via the admitted exhibits, or orally before the Court:

1. At all relevant times, the Roosevelt National Forest is Special Territorial Jurisdiction of the United States, located in the State and District of Colorado.
2. On August 10, 2018, at approximately 7:35 a.m., a Forest Protection Officer in the National Forest Service, encountered the defendant, Dustin Taylor, asleep in his Nissan Pathfinder vehicle. There is no evidence as to where Mr. Taylor was in his vehicle. Thus, the Court does not know, one way or another, whether Mr. Taylor was asleep in the back of his Pathfinder, in a sleeping bag in the back, curled up in the middle bench seats, or whether he merely nodded off to sleep behind the wheel.
3. The vehicle was parked in a pull-off area in the Roosevelt National Forest on the Stove Prairie Road that was part of a quarter-mile camping closure area along the road.
4. The pull-off area has two posted “no camping” signs. Photographs of the signs were admitted. The signs are legible, obvious, and easily visible.
5. The signs were posted under UFC-01-2017, a lawful order of the Forest Service pursuant to 16 U.S.C. § 551, and 36 C.F.R. § 261.50(a) and (b).
6. The Forest Protection Officer recorded by GPS the latitude and longitude of the vehicle, which is within one ...

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