Case highlights lingering legal questions about veil travel

Last year 181 countries came together to sign the Gateway Travel accord, making veil travel legal across most of the world. The agreement set rules about trade between countries, addressed questions about the type of goods that could be moved across borders, and established guidelines about sharing information. Veil travel is easily the most popular way to get around, but the accord covers only international travel. Here in the United States many legal questions and court challenges remain. Two recent cases show that the law still needs time to properly address a few issues involved with veil travel.

By all accounts 24-year-old Grit Howard is a typical young man growing up in Louisiana. What makes him special, is that he is the focus of a legal battle that has the potential to shape case law regarding veil travel for years to come. Many legal experts say that the growth in popularity of gateway technology has far exceeded the ability of the law to keep up, leaving many important questions unanswered. Veilcorp says his case and others like it are a result of confusion about how the veil process works.

Two years ago Grit was charged with criminal trespassing after he and his friends broke into a construction site in order to take “daredevil” pictures of themselves dangling off the building. He was fined, ordered to maintain lawful employment, and given 3 years probation. For over 20 months Grit kept his nose clean and kept his job as ordered. It is the location of his job that has landed him in legal trouble. For years he has been using the veil to travel to the oil rigs over 100 miles away from his home, a distance that officials say is out of the area he was ordered to stay as part of his probation.

“The problem here is that my probation officer is Kenny Jolivet. We grew up in the same parish and he always had it out for me. He was a miserable kid. Kenny was the kind of kid who was always picked last, if he was picked at all. But he was good at picking his nose, he always had that going for him. It’s not like I’m the first person to work the rigs on probation. I asked him if it was alright and he gave me permission. He said because I was veiling there I didn’t need anything in writing because I wasn’t actually traveling that far. I was just walking through the gateway. He said it’d be different if I was driving. It sounded about right to me. It’s not my fault that he’s still holding a kickball grudge. I should have known that something was wrong when he kept calling my girlfriend late at night to talk about the “special terms” of my probation. I hope they’re happy together,” Howard says.

Veilcorp Spokesperson Lisa Hunt says that the special nature of veil travel shouldn’t affect jurisdictions or personal travel restrictions. “Unfortunately for Mr. Howard and others like him, the law hasn’t quite kept up with our technological progress. The exact workings of veil travel can be confusing and I think some of these cases are a result of misunderstandings. As we’ve said time and time again, the same laws that would apply to someone flying apply to someone using our technology. The only difference is that flying requires you to show up 2 hours early, have strangers in uniforms grope you, sit in a tube with air that smells like garlic infused whiskey, and endure having the back of your seat kicked by unruly children. Mr. Howard’s case is regrettably not the only one involving misconceptions about the travel process. The recent case in Michigan highlights just how poorly understood it is.”

Hunt is referring to the story of Brenda Ronner and her brother Tedd. Ronner’s case dominated the headlines earlier this year when she claimed that her brother violated a restraining order when he veiled at the same time she did. The case made it all the way to the Michigan Supreme court. Tedd was ultimately acquitted after it was decided that traveling through the matter stream at the same time did not violate the 150 yard distance he was ordered to stay away.

While many considered the case a stretch, the fact that it was accepted by the high court highlights how many issues remain in a grey area: Is the matter stream a new jurisdiction? What laws apply to an individual during the veiling process? At what point does the jurisdiction between states change, if at all, when traveling through the veil? While there seems to be plenty of legal questions about veil travel domestically, one things seems clear, they won’t be answered anytime soon. Grit’s case is still in the appeal process and experts say many more like it are sure to come.