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United States v. Rollins

Citation: 19 ELR 20935
No. No. 88-10033, 706 F. Supp. 742/(D. Idaho, 02/10/1989)

The court holds that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) is unconstitutionally vague when applied to defendant, whose application of registered pesticides to an alfalfa field inadvertently poisoned a flock of geese. The court first notes that the lack of a scienter element in a strict liability criminal statute, such as the MBTA, makee it prone to vagueness. The court holds that the MBTA is unconstitutionally vague under the facts of this case because the defendant was not given fair notice as to what constitutes criminal conduct and consequently was unable to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law. The failure of the MBTA to specify that the inadvertant poisoning of migratory birds with agricultural pesticides constitutes criminal conduct resulted in the statute becoming a trap for the defendant who had acted in good faith. Defendant had properly applied the pesticides, and past pesticides use by area farmers had never before caused avian mortality. A violation of the defendant's due process rights cannot be cured by imposing a small or nominal fine for innocent technical violations of the MBTA.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Maurice O. Ellsworth, U.S. Attorney; George Breitsameler, Ass't U.S. Attorney
328 U.S. Courthouse, 550 W. Fort St., Boise ID 83724
(208) 334-1211

Counsel for Defendant
R Brad Masingill, W. Commercial, Weiser ID 83672
(208) 549-0665