Enforcing Federal and Local Laws: No Drinking or Passing on VINP Roads

Despite the absence of “no passing” striping on the roadway and lack of “no passing” signs, drivers on the North Shore Road who pass another vehicle will be pulled over by V.I. National Park Law Enforcement Rangers—even if there is no place to pull over.

National Park Service Law Enforcement Rangers are authorized to enforce both federal and territorial laws and regulations, including no passing, according to the VINP Chief Ranger Steve Clark.

Even though some territorial laws conflict with federal laws, rangers have the ability to enforce both.

Federal Rules Enforced
“We’ve always enforced federal rules and regulations as they relate to the operation of motor vehicles,” said Clark. “This is nationwide. These rules are enforced in every national park in the U.S.”

Improper passing falls under the federal statute of unsafe operations, which basically covers any dangerous driving act, according to Clark.

Rangers are entitled to issue verbal warnings, written citations and make arrests for offenses, he added.

Another federal law that is enforced on roadways in the VINP is the open container law, according to the chief ranger.

Although there is no open container law in the V.I. Code, which allows motorists on territorial roads to have open containers of alcohol, don’t try driving on the North Shore Road with an open beer.

Although alcohol is allowed on VINP beaches—as long it is not in a glass container—motorists are not allowed to have open containers of alocoholic beverages in a vehicle.

“No open containers are allowed on VINP roads, whatsoever,” Clark said.

Assimilated Crimes Act
In addition to enforcing federal regulations, VINP rangers are also able to enforce local statutes, like the anti-nudity law.

“We have the Assimilated Crimes Act,” Clark said. “That means that the ranger must assimilate or enforce rules and regulations that are not on the federal books, but may be on state, or county, or in this case, territorial ordinances.”

“The exposure of private parts is not a federal law, but it is under the V.I. Code,” he continued. “Rangers have the authority to enforce federal and territorial statues, provided that the offense occurs on federal land.”

Another federal law that covers a wide array of offenses is the disorderly conduct law.

Disorderly Conduct
“Disorderly conduct is when someone has the intent to cause a nuisance or public alarm, specifically as it relates to managing a park,” said Clark.

The disorderly conduct law can mean a woman not wearing a bikini top on a secluded beach in the VINP would not necessarily receive a citation for nudity, her explained.

The same woman not wearing a bikini top on a crowded beach, however, could be issued a citation if her action is interpreted as disorderly conduct, according to Clark. Rangers throughout the U.S. interpret law, especially when local and federal laws conflict, as here in the V.I., he added.

Despite how it may seem to park users, rangers are not out to catch people doing something wrong, Clark explained.

“I would like the public to know that the rangers are not out there for the sole purpose of writing tickets,” he said. “What we are trained to do is to use the lowest effective tool to basically stop that particular violation and prevent you from doing it in the future.”

Verbal Warnings First
Rangers usually issue a verbal warning to someone for a first time offense. If that person continues to violate a statute, rangers would then issue a written warning. Repeat offenders can expect a citation and even a physical arrest, Clark added.

“What we try to put out to the public is that we work hand in hand with the V.I. Police Department,” he said. “However, North Shore Road is under federal jurisdiction, and we deal with motor vehicle, and other offenses, in that light.”

The VINP law enforcement division has a data base which records all warnings or citations issued. This allows rangers to keep track of how many warnings someone has been issued, and when rangers should take the next step—either citations or arrests, explained Clark.

VINP rangers most often make arrests for driving under the influence, but also enforce speed and safe passing ordinances, Clark said.

“We make traffic stops for various reasons,” he said. “But it’s not meant to be an ‘I got you.’ We are trying to protect the public, the wildlife and the resources in the VINP.”