Cite as FSM v. Doone,
1 FSM Intrm. 365 (Pon. 1983)


[1 FSM Intrm. 365]




Before Edward C. King
Chief Justice
Ponape, Caroline Islands 96941
November 8, 1983

     For the Plaintiff:          Carl Ullman
                                          Assistant Attorney General
                                          Office of the Attorney General
                                          Federated States of Micronesia
                                          Ponape, Caroline Islands 96941

     For the Defendant:     Loretta Faymonville
                                          Public Defender
                                          P.O. Box 238
                                          Ponape, Caroline Islands 96941

[1 FSM Intrm. 366]

     On March 3, 1983, Ponape state police officers, responding to a call, found a disturbance involving Lorenzo Doone.  The police were informed by his uncle that Doone had been staying in his uncle's house, but that he had been fighting and his uncle wanted him removed.  Observing that Lorenzo Doone appeared drunk, the officers took him in their patrol car to the police station in Kolonia.

     The police soon decided to transfer the defendant.  After advising him that he was under arrest and was being taken to the jail, Officer Edgar Manasa placed Mr. Doonein the patrol car.  As the car was leaving Kolonia, Doone, sitting in the front seat, suddenly opened the door and tried to jump out.  Fearful that Mr. Doone would fall underneath the car, Officer Manasa attempted simultaneously but unsuccessfully to hold the defendant and stop the car.

     Mr. Doone escaped and is now charged with violating 11 F.S.M.C. 505, the National Criminal Code prohibition against escaping from official detention.

     Trial has been held and this opinion constitutes my findings of fact and conclusions of law.

The Escape Statute
     A threshold issue is whether the national escape provision applies to this flight from state police officers.

[1 FSM Intrm. 367]

The statute, 11 F.S.M.C. 505(1), provides in pertinent part:

(1)     A person commits the offense of escape if he unlawfully removes himself from official detention...."Official detention" means any detention for law enforcement purposes.  The term "official detention shall apply to any person legally authorized or empowered to arrest or detain on behalf of the Federated States of Micronesia.

     The defendant indisputably was being held for law enforcement purposes. Under a joint law enforcement agreement with the national government, Ponape State police officers are authorized to detain on behalf of the Federated States of Micronesia.  The statute's requirements are thus squarely met.

     The statute, as applied here, is a valid exercise of national powers.  At the time of Mr. Doone's escape, the police officers had not had an opportunity to conduct a thorough investigation or to determine the precise charges, if any, which would be filed against him.  Throughout the investigation stage, with uncertainty as to whether a national offense will be charged, the national government has a legitimate interest in preventing unlawful flight from state police officers authorized to act on behalf of the Federated States of Micronesia.

     The defendant argues also that there was "legal irregularity" in his detention, within the meaning of

[1 FSM Intrm. 368]

11 F.S.M.C. 505(3), in that there was no showing of probable cause for the police to hold him.  I find no legal irregularity.  The police observed that Mr. Lorenzo Doone had been drinking.  They were told that he had been fighting and that his uncle wanted him removed from the household.  Doone's family pointed out no other person who might be responsible for the fighting.  These facts gave the officers probable cause to believe that the defendant at the very least was guilty of disturbing the peace.

     Even if there had been legal irregularity in bringing about Mr. Doone's detention, his escape would not have been legally justified.  Chaos could ensue if prisoners were legally authorized to escape from any official detention they consider improper.  The law generally requires that a prisoner test the legality of his detention in a court of law rather than attempt to enforce his own claim to freedom.

     A prisoner held illegally in a custodial facility is never permitted to escape.  11 F.S.M.C. 505(3).  Even outside of a custodial facility, one illegally detained by a law officer acting in good faith is entitled to escape only if he can do so with "no substantial risk of harm to the person or property of anyone other than the defendant." Id. 505(3)(a).

     To minimize disruption and challenges to official

[1 FSM Intrm. 369]

police authority, the statutory exceptions to prohibitions against escape should be read restrictively.  The police car from which Doone fled was being used to maintain custody as well as to transport him from one custodial facility to another. I hold that the police car was a custodial facility within the meaning of 11 F.S.M.C. 505(3).

     Also, Doone's attempt to escape from the moving police car forced Officer Manasa to try to hold him while driving and stopping the car.  This created a substantial risk of harm to Manasa and the police car.

     For the above reasons, I conclude that Mr. Lorenzo Doone is guilty of the crime of escape in violation of 11 F.S.M.C. 505.

                                                                                               /s/ Edward C. King           
Chief Justice
Supreme Court of the Federated
States of Micronesia

     Entered the 9th day of November, 1983.
                                                                                             /s/ Emeliana J. Kihleng      
Chief Clerk of Court