Camping citation woes.
November 15, 2011 4:42 PM Subscribe
If a park ranger gives you a citation for violating the terms of a permit, is "Other rangers told me it's ok when I got the permit" a valid defense? Also, what are my obligations when no court date is specified on the citation?
posted by ilikemefi to Law & Government (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Stayed the night at a boat-in campsite on Tomales Bay the other night (it was fantastic) but on the way out a ranger gave us a citation because only part of our party had kayaked in, while the others took a public trail.
These campsites are "boat-in only", and our group is honestly trying to do everything by the book (fire permits, bringing own wood, taking out all waste, etc). So when I originally called for the permit, I asked the nice lady if it's ok for some of us to hike in while the rest of us boat in since the kayaks can't bring everything we want to bring. She says the trailhead has no overnight parking. Fine, I say, what if the boaters drop us off with our gear and then park somewhere legal to launch the kayaks? She hesitates for a bit, since this is clearly an unusual request, but ends up okaying it and gives me the permit.
I pick up the permit the day before, and talk to another ranger (who's name is on my permit) and he asks me where we're boating from and which beach we're staying at. I tell him the details of our plan, and he also hesitates a bit, and then goes ahead and gives me the permit.
Now I don't remember if either of them explicitly told me that it would be ok, but they certainly didn't do anything to dissuade me from doing this, and didn't mention that I would be violating some condition of the permit. From my perspective this look a lot like a quiet approval. I had no idea this was in violation of the rules, since I interpreted "boat-in" as "you'll need to boat in to get here", not "you may only boat-in".
So the ranger finds some of us hiking out afterwards, I tell him my story and that we really had no idea this wasn't allowed, and that two rangers didn't tell us not to. He cops an attitude, seems not to believe me, and tells me "I've been through the same training they have, and I know that boat-in only means that you can't be doing this." Fine, whatever, don't want to argue with this guy, I'll just take my day in court. I sign the citation and start walking away. "I'm not done with you yet!" Now he's clearly angry, I wait around another 15 seconds while he talks some more, and then he let's me leave, but only once he's fulfilled his power-trip by making it clear that I can't leave until he tells me to.
Do I have a valid defense in court because I was totally up-front with the first two rangers about my plans? Or should I just pay the fine? I suspect I committed whatever crime I'm being cited for, but it's unclear to me what these mitigating factors will do in a court of law.
Also, the citation doesn't have a court date. Should I wait until I'm mailed one? Will I be mailed one? He told me that I won't be receiving anything in the mail. Does the citation have legal weight, or is it more of a "please pay this if you hope to come to Pt Reyes again", because after this debacle I'd be quite happy ignoring this and not going back.