Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Time Limits for Trespassing

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Time Limits for Trespassing

Article excerpt

To pass constitutional muster under the Due Process Clause, a criminal statute or ordinance must provide police with clear guidelines to prevent arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement. Moreover, the criminal statute or ordinance must be fully defined to provide adequate notice of the prohibited conduct.

In the case of Travis v. State, No. 34A05-0402-CR-98, 2004 Ind. App. LEXIS 1467, Stephen L. Travis appealed his conviction for criminal trespass in a public park. The facts of the case were as follows:

On Sept. 2, 2002, Kokomo Police Officer Greg Baldini encountered Travis and other individuals in Studebaker Park "playing dice and gambling." After Travis started "to run his mouth," Baldini "put him on trespass for Studebaker Park" and told him "not to come back." Hc also told Travis that if he returned to the park, he would be arrested for trespass. The officer then entered in the police record system that he had warned Travis for trespassing on that date.

Two days later, Officer Larkin Fourkiller, along with another officer, was patrolling Studebaker Park when lie observed Travis sitting on a park bench. Fourkiller checked with the dispatch and confirmed that Baldini had warned Travis "for trespass" on Sept. 2. After Travis identified himself, Fourkiller arrested him for criminal trespass.

When asked to explain what placing someone "on trespass" meant, Baldini testified as follows:

I do a report[;] obviously I notify him that at that time that he's put on trespass [and] not to come back. I do a report and it goes through our record system and then it goes to dispatch, a copy is faxed to dispatch . .. and then they enter it into the computer that he's warned for trespass on that date. We interpret "on trespass" to mean placing a person on a trespass list.

At Travis' trial on the charge of criminal trespass, the trial court asked Baldini "what authority lie had to place a citizen on the trespass list for a public park." In response, Baldini provided the following testimony:

I guess I don't know what-if there's an agreement or we've been given authority to put people on trespass in public parks and the public housing-I couldn't answer on how actually that transpires to be honest with you. I just know we can do it.

After conceding that Fourkiller had discovered Travis in Studebaker Park on Sept. 4, 2002, Travis' lawyer argued that "Officer Baldini lacked authority to place Travis, or any citizen, on a trespass list for a public park." The trial court found that Travis' had a "very valid point:"

[W]hon you were arrested for trespass you were not performing any illegal activity in the park... [I]f you were committing illegal activity ... a city police officer would have the ability to cite you for trespass ... [W]hen you're not performing any illegal activity then the statute would be overly broad and unconstitutionally vague.

Even though the trial court acknowledged that Travis was not engaging in an illegal act at the time of his arrest for criminal trespass, the trial judge nonetheless found that "city police officers should have the ability to place individuals on trespass who are misusing or committing activities on public property." Accordingly, the trial judge found Travis guilty of criminal trespass and sentenced him to one year of informal probation. Travis appealed the judge's decision.

Legal Basis for "Trespass List?"

On appeal, Travis asserted that "the State presented insufficient evidence to sustain his conviction" because "Officer Baldini lacked authority to place him on a trespass list and ban him from Studebaker Park."

As noted by the appeals court, "the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment requires that a defendant be convicted by proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." Accordingly, the appeals court had to "make certain that the proof at trial was, in fact, sufficient to support the judgment beyond a reasonable doubt. …

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