From the June 2004 Idaho Observer:

Ahh. What a relief!

This country is full of stories so idiotic one has a hard time believing they are real. This is one of them. Smile because this story, at least, has a happy ending, where so many begin like this one, as a farce, and end in tragedy.

by Lance Trotter

A recent ruling by U.S. District Judge David M. Lawson in Bay City, is a relief to Michigan outdoorsmen.

In an unprecedented display of common sense for a contemporary jurist, Judge Lawson ruled, “When nature calls, it is not illegal to urinate in the woods.” Judge Lawson added that it is not “indecent and obscene conduct in a public place, because there was no public to offend.”

Yet that is one of the charges that a man faced after he pulled his truck down a two-track road in the Huron-Manistee National Forest in Oscoda County and emptied his bladder.

Who would have thought that on the night of Oct. 18, 2002, a Federal Ranger looking for poachers would be laying in wait a mile away?

The ranger crept her darkened truck up the trail toward the crime in progress, watched with binoculars to make sure she got a good look at the “offender,” then hit her siren when the man drove away.

The ranger, who suspected the man had been drinking, searched the truck and found a loaded .410 between the seats and some empty liquor bottles.

Oscoda County deputies were called to administer a breath test, in which the man tested 0.13 percent and the man was arrested and taken to jail, his vehicle towed.

I don't condone carrying loaded weapons in vehicles. Nor is it OK to drive drunk. But stepping into the brush far from any town, far from any toilet for that matter, to relieve yourself is, well, perfectly natural. To call it indecent and obscene behavior to relieve yourself, after dark in the middle of nowhere, is beyond ridiculous.

What's obscene is when such a trumped-up charge is used as an excuse to search a vehicle. What's even more troubling about this case is that we, as a society so fond of calling itself “progressive,” has gotten our thinking so fogged with legalisms that a federal agent, county police, U.S. attorneys and a federal grand jury of citizens seated in Bay City all agreed that urinating in the woods at night, with no-one around is indecent and obscene.

How about that, you hunters, fishermen, backwoods campers, hikers and modern-day Davy Crockets and Danielle Boones?

There's even more to the story

The man's passenger, a disabled woman, eventually needed to heed her bladder's urgent call while police investigated the scene. The federal ranger, the only female on the scene, actually helped her answer that call!

Of course, that act was neither indecent nor obscene. It was the right thing to do.

Which is what Judge Lawson did when he threw out the charges that started this entire absurdity and all the other charges as well.

That search, Judge Lawson ruled, was illegal because what started this whole case of supposedly obscene conduct did not exist, and illegal search equals no evidence, and no case.

It's reassuring that we have at least one sensible judge like Lawson to rule on what's left of the basic laws of our land. In this case the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects us against “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

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