United States v. Apel

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Property Law
  • Date Filed: February 26, 2014
  • Case #: 12-1038
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Roberts, C.J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous court.
  • Full Text Opinion

For 18 U.S.C. § 1382 purposes, a military installation includes the commanding officer's area of responsibility.

The Air Force granted an easement for two public highways. Adjacent to one of the public highways is a peaceful-protest area. 18 U.S.C. § 1382 makes it a crime to reenter a military base after having been ordered not to “by any officer or person in command.” Respondent reentered the protest area after being barred from the base.

A magistrate judge fined Respondent and, on appeal, the District Court agreed, holding that the military “ha[d] a sufficient possessory interest and exercise[d] sufficient control over” the area. The Ninth Circuit reversed and held that the burden was on the military to prove it had “the exclusive right of possession of the area on which the trespass allegedly occurred.”

The Supreme Court vacated, remanded and held that 18 U.S.C. § 1382 reaches “all property within the defined boundaries of a military place that is under the command of a military officer,” and that the entirety of this parcel of land is under such control. The military commander has not relinquished control of the area in question. Much the opposite, the commander has promulgated rules for the protest area and the easement. Additionally, the commander specifically reserves the right to close the highways “to properly protect the interests of the United States.”

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