My Commute Home Now Causes Me To Break Federal Law?


A local military base painted lines across an intersection near a vehicle entry gate. The lines make it impossible to traverse the intersection without “entering” the base, even if it is only for 20 feet and immediately exiting. The intersection has existed for sixty years but the lines are new. I’m not lawyer but I think it may be breaking the law for me to pass through that intersection!

This is why I think so:

I’ll start off with a diagram of the intersection in question

I may understand why the line is painted where it is:

This is a vehicle entrance gate. It may not happen much but when a threatening vehicles approaches the gate, the military may need to take action before it arrives at the gate. Drawing the base perimeter lines outside the gate allows that action to be taken after the vehicle has entered government property but before it gets to the gate. If the line were to be drawn at the actual gate, the vehicle may still be on civilian property as it approaches and taking military action against someone on civilian property could be a real potential PR problem.

However, the letter of the law brings up a problem

But this line also causes a bit of a legal problem. This is a secured base and public entry is prohibited. Thus driving through the intersection is driving through the base and entry by the public without approval is not allowed. I confirmed this on the DOJ website:

Section 1382 of Title 18 forbids trespassing on military bases. Two distinct offenses are embraced by this section. First, 18 U.S.C. § 1382 prohibits any person from entering any military installation for any purpose prohibited by law. In addition, this section precludes individuals who have been removed from bases and instructed not to reenter from reentering without permission.

The intent required for these two offenses differs. In order to violate the first paragraph of 18 U.S.C. § 1382 an individual must enter for some “purpose prohibited by law or lawful regulation.” Thus, this offense is a specific intent crime. Note, however, that in military installations where the public is forbidden entry by law or regulations, the simple intent to enter will be sufficient to trigger this section.

This section applies to any military, naval, or coast guard reservation, post, fort, arsenal, yard, station or installation over which the United States has exclusive possession. See Holdridge v. United States, 282 F.2d at 309. Persons violating this section are subject to 6 months imprisonment, a $500 fine, or both.

It seems clear that this is written to include people climbing over the fence at a facility. Of course, the base would want to stop that from happening and have justification for arresting them. But it seems that even a temporary encroachment onto the property would qualify. So, by the letter of the law, my next commute could land me in the brig!

I know this wouldn’t happen

Realistically, this is a mute point and more of an academic discussion. There isn’t a viable case here and an argument could be made to justify base entrance to pass through the intersection. Additionally, no base would be interested in enforcing this as no harm is being done and it would setup a conflict between the local community and base.

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