Case No. 98-137-Civ-J-20C
UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE,
SHERIFF OF MARION COUNTY, FL, and
SHERIFF OF LAKE COUNTY, FL,
In this case, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants have conducted, and plan to continue conducting, roadblocks and vehicle searches in or near the Ocala National Forest ("ONF"). Plaintiffs further allege that these roadblocks unlawfully prevent or deter Plaintiffs' access to the ONF, where they occassionally meet with fellow members of a loosely organized group sometimes called the "Rainbow Family." Plaintiffs contend that Defendants have specifically, and unlawfully, aimed these roadblocks and searches at Plaintiffs and others similarly situated.
Defendant United States Forest service argues that the roadblocks and searches are lawful, and are necessary to: (1) enforce Forest Service rules and regulations promulgated to protect the national forest and ensure public safety; (2) ensure that drivers and vehicles are properly licensed, and that drivers are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs; and (3) ensure that vehicles are parked in designated parking areas, so that forest roads are kept clear to readily provide emergency ingress and egress. The Forest Service also contends that it has not selectively targeted Palintiffs or and other group.
During the hearing, Plaintiffs adduced evidence, inter alia, that Defendant
Forest Service has checked the identities of vehicle *passengers* traveling
to Rainbow Family gatherings, and that at least one plaintiff was stopped
upon entering *and exiting* the ONF. The Court fails to see how these actions
could possibly serve the public interest. Moreover, this evidence strongly
suggests that Defendant Forest Service has selectively targeted its enforcement
efforts against Plaintiffs, and that its actions may not, at least in some
instances, be in
accordance with the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
Consequently, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on the merits. Furthermore, if Defendant Forest Service is allowed to continue conducting roadblocks in the manner in which it has previously done so, Plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm by being prevented or deterred from entering and enjoying the Ocala National Forest. Finally, since compelling Defendant Forest Service to comply with existing federal law can only inure to the public's benefit, and will in no way impose harm upon Defendant Forest Service, it is hereby
(2) Defendant United States Forest Service is hereby ENJOINED from establishing or participating in roadblock "safety checks" in the Ocala National Forest, except to ensure that the possession or operation of motorized vehicles on a Forest Service road is not in violation of the laws of the United States or the State of Florida, and is in conformance with current United States Department of Agriculture regulations and policies. Defendant United States Forest Service is FURTHER ENJOINED from making any motor vehicle stops and/or searches for criminal purposes without individualized exigent circumstances or other proper and articulable individualized suspicion or probable cause, as the United States Constitution so requires.
DONE AND ORDERED at Jacksonville, Florida this 24th day of February, 1998, nunc pro tunc to February 20, 1998, at 6:15 p.m.
Harvey E. Schlessinger
United States District Judge