UNITED STATES v. APEL
The Department of the Air Force owns a section of land that Highway 1 crosses, and the Department has granted roadway easements to the State of California and Santa Barbara County. Highway 1 runs next to the main gate of Vandenberg Air Force Base (Vandenberg). Near the gate is a designated area for public protesting that falls under the Highway 1 easement.
John D. Apel was barred from Vandenberg’s property in 2007 for trespassing. In 2010, while the order barring him was still in effect, he entered the designated protest area three times and was asked to leave. On all three occasions the respondent failed to leave. In two separate trials, Apel was convicted of three violations of a federal statute prohibiting a person from reentering a military installation after a commanding officer has ordered him not to reenter. Apel appealed, arguing that the federal statute requires that the base has exclusive possession over the area. The district court affirmed the convictions by holding that, under the terms of the easement, the land is subject to base rules and regulations. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed and held that, because the area is subject to an easement, the federal government does not have an exclusive right of possession, so the conviction cannot stand.
Can a federal statute be enforced on a portion of a military installation that is subject to a public roadway easement?