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United States v. Lyons

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

August 4, 2017




         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Count 3 of the Indictment, filed on July 14, 2017. (Doc. 27.) Having considered the submissions of the parties and relevant law, the Court will DENY the motion.

         I. Background

         The Government filed a Criminal Complaint against Mr. Matthew Lyons on April 10, 2017, under 17 U.S.C. §§ 111(a)(1) and 758, “which make[] it a crime for any person to Impede, Resist, and Assault a Federal Officer and to flee at a high speed from an immigration checkpoint.” (Doc. 1 ¶ 2.) Lyons now moves to dismiss Count 3 of the Indictment, which charges him with fleeing and evading the checkpoint. (See Docs. 27; 19.) Lyons alleges that the statute is unconstitutionally vague. (Id.)

         A. The Facts as Alleged in the Complaint

         The facts underlying the Complaint are as follows: on April 6, 2017, Lyons entered a United States Border Patrol (USBP) checkpoint on Highway 54. (Doc. 1 ¶ 4.) The USBP agent asked Lyons and his front seat passenger if they were citizens, and they both responded “yes.” (Id. ¶ 5.) The agent noticed a back seat passenger and asked Lyons to roll down the rear window. (Id.) Lyons stated that the passenger was his minor son and refused to roll down the window. (Id.)

         Lyons asked the agent if he was being detained; the agent said he was. (Id. ¶ 6.) The agent walked toward the station to notify other agents, and Lyons fled the checkpoint at a high rate of speed. (Id.) USBP agents pursued Lyons with their lights and sirens activated. (Id. ¶ 7.) The agents caught up to Lyons' vehicle about half a mile beyond the checkpoint, and the two vehicles reached speeds of approximately 90 miles per hour for 1.3 miles before Lyons stopped. (Id. ¶ 8.)

         A second USBP agent asked Lyons why he fled, “Lyons responded that he knew his rights and . . . was not required to stop.” (Id. ¶ 9.) Lyons refused to provide identification or to step out of the vehicle. (Id.) The agent, who was unable to see Lyons' hands, decided to extract him from the vehicle. (Id.) When the agent opened the door and reached for Lyons' seatbelt release, Lyons slapped the agent's “hand and attempted to strike [the agent] with his elbow.” (Id.) A third agent arrived to assist, and the agents “attempted to get Lyons to the ground in order to handcuff him.” (Id. ¶ 10.) Lyons put one of the agents in a headlock, and the other agent struck Lyons in both legs with a baton, picked Lyons up, “and forcefully took him to the ground.” (Id.) Lyons continued to resist, the agent struck him once more in the legs with a baton, and the agents were finally able to get a handcuff on him. (Id. ¶ 11.) At that point, Lyons complied, and the agents handcuffed him, placed him under arrest, read him his rights, and transported him to the USBP checkpoint station. (Id. ¶¶ 11-12.)

         The Government filed a three-count Indictment on June 21, 2017. (Doc. 19.) Counts 1 and 2 charge Lyons with “forcibly assault[ing], resist[ing], oppos[ing], imped[ing], intimidat[ing], and interfer[ing] with” law enforcement officers in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 111. (Id. at 1.) Count 3 charges Lyons with “unlawfully, knowingly and intentionally fle[eing] and evad[ing] a checkpoint operated by United States Border Patrol and any other Federal law enforcement agency, in a motor vehicle, . . . in excess of the legal speed limit” in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 758. (Id. at 3.)

         II. Legal Standard

         “A party may raise by pretrial motion any defense, objection, or request that the court can determine without a trial on the merits.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 12(b)(1). “On a motion to dismiss an indictment, the question is not whether the government has presented sufficient evidence to support the charge, but solely whether the allegations in the indictment, if true, are sufficient to establish a violation of the charged offense.” United States v. Todd, 446 F.3d 1062, 1068 (10th Cir. 2006) (citations omitted).

         “A statute is impermissibly vague ‘if it fails to provide people of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to understand what conduct it prohibits.'” United States v. Franklin-El, 554 F.3d 903, 910 (10th Cir. 2009) (quoting Ward v. Utah, 398 F.3d 1239, 1251 (10th Cir. 2005) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted)). “Additionally, a statute that authorizes or encourages arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement can be impermissibly vague.” Id. (citing Ward, 398 F.3d at 1251). Vague criminal statutes violate due process. See Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551, 2556-57 (citations omitted).

         III. ...

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