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Old March 9, 2021, 10:33 AM   #1
4thAmendmentLawyer
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Game Wardens and your constitutional rights

Game wardens enforce states’ wildlife and hunting laws. In many of those states, the law says those wardens may “go upon any property, outside of buildings, posted or otherwise.” Wardens rely on this authority to routinely enter, wander around, and install surveillance cameras on rural private land.

They can do this because the U.S. Supreme Court gutted crucial property and privacy protections with the “open fields” doctrine. That doctrine, first invented by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1924, says the Constitution does not protect any land beyond the home and its immediate surrounding area (known as the “curtilage”).

But states can provide greater protections under their constitutions. My organization, the Institute for Justice, is a pro bono non-profit law firm that does not charge its clients for legal services. IJ has brought one case challenging game wardens' use of the open fields doctrine under the Tennessee Constitution, which protects each individual’s “persons, houses, papers and possessions” from “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

We want to bring more such cases, particularly in the following states: Alabama, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Rhode Island. To that end, we are looking for hunters and private property owners who want to exercise their constitutional rights. For more information, check out IJ's lawsuit against the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency or go to Report Abuse at https://ij.org/report-abuse.
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Old March 9, 2021, 12:34 PM   #2
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This forum is not going to be very friendly toward your cause, at least in publicizing it here. While I can appreciate you’re willingness to help, solicitations for people who want to “exercise their constitutional rights” in the context you bring up sounds an awful lot like “break a game law on private property so we can challenge the open fields doctrine in your state.” We generally do not condone such activity.

After all, a court is not likely to make a ruling on state constitutional grounds of search and seizure unless you’ve already been charged with a violation by the rabbit sheriff (I mean game warden). Open fields doctrine also is rooted in some long standing tradition. It’s generally not unlawful, immoral, or ethically wrong to walk through a large block of woods owned by another, even without permission. Many portions of the Appalachian trail and the N.C. mountains to sea trail cross private lands, and both are well trod by people without specific permission to cross said lands. Maybe Tennessee holds different views, but I see that being more of an anomaly than a standard.

I could see such challenges being successful for properties entirely fenced in and posted along the entire property line. Short of that, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
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Old March 9, 2021, 12:53 PM   #3
Carl the Floor Walker
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Where I live, we wish we had more Game Wardens. And may God bless them all. In all my years of hunting and I do a lot, I have never seen them going around and installingl security camera's on private Property. What are the reason they would do so? Something must be illegal to take the time to do this. Hard enough for them to just enforce game laws and violations on Public land and Forrest.
That said, there are some places I wish they would go onto Private property and do surveillance. There are some clubs many us us feel certain they are taking Deer and not reporting them. Many of these clubs do not have the ethics now as they did in the past.

Last edited by Carl the Floor Walker; March 9, 2021 at 01:00 PM.
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Old March 9, 2021, 01:39 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carl the Floor Walker View Post
Where I live, we wish we had more Game Wardens. And may God bless them all. In all my years of hunting and I do a lot, I have never seen them going around and installingl security camera's on private Property. What are the reason they would do so? Something must be illegal to take the time to do this. Hard enough for them to just enforce game laws and violations on Public land and Forrest.
That said, there are some places I wish they would go onto Private property and do surveillance. There are some clubs many us us feel certain they are taking Deer and not reporting them. Many of these clubs do not have the ethics now as they did in the past.
Ditto, and I am in Colorado. Private Landowners herding Elk, their clients poaching Elk, even shooting several and then choosing the largest. Game Warden wouldn't even set foot on the land or try to investigate and would not take my statement and issue a citation.
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Old March 9, 2021, 01:52 PM   #5
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If I understand correctly, a Game Warden in Illinois can knock on your front door, and demand to see the contents of your freezer to check status / legality of any wild game being stored there. No search warrant needed. I have a problem with that. I no longer hunt or fish, and have never taken game or fish without the proper licensing and permits. I have nothing to hide, but I have a problem with warrantless search.
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Old March 9, 2021, 02:37 PM   #6
NoSecondBest
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Not a great first post. No problems here in New York with our game wardens. They’ve been very, very helpful to me on several occasions.
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Old March 9, 2021, 03:39 PM   #7
4thAmendmentLawyer
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The reason you have no problems is because New York has repudiated the Open Fields Doctrine:

People v. Scott, 79 N.Y.2d 474, 593 N.E.2d 1328 (1992) (open fields doctrine . . . did not protect citizens' fundamental rights under State Constitution and would not be adopted as law of New York)
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Old March 9, 2021, 07:27 PM   #8
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Personally I don't see why people have a problem with game wardens going on their property. It makes no sense.
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Old March 9, 2021, 08:07 PM   #9
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Bad-Spin

Quote:
Game wardens enforce states’ wildlife and hunting laws. In many of those states, the law says those wardens may “go upon any property, outside of buildings, posted or otherwise.” Wardens rely on this authority to routinely enter, wander around, and install surveillance cameras on rural private land.
First off, you may like the term "Game-Wardens" but the preferred title ls "Conservation Officers". I feel you are putting a negative spin on this, in order to promote your services. I have been with some when looking for poaching and wounded animals. I'll give you that there may be some bad apples but that's the world we live in; even in your profession. I have seen them cut more slack, then stepping on toes. You will not believe some of the incidents they get involved in. I would also remind you that they also carry the title and responsibilities of Law-Enforcement-Officers. ......

Be Safe !!!
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Old March 9, 2021, 08:56 PM   #10
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You all haven't met the one who thinks he is above the law, like 'who is going to complain'.I have, and in spite of many years of close association with many levels of law enforcement, I finally had a face to face with one who didn't mind trespassing, admitting it, and later saying that he'd even let his grandson shoot a deer on my property 'because he didn't think I'd mind'. Well, of all who should know the laws and rules, that would be him. Our last encounter, I called him everything but nice, and made him leave his bow killed deer for coyote bait on my property. Having said all that, I firmly believe that 99% are doing their job, and have my full support, but if I need them on my property, I'll call them.
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Old March 9, 2021, 09:54 PM   #11
NoSecondBest
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Take your services somewhere else. If you have to stay here, put an add in the classifieds.
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Old March 9, 2021, 11:41 PM   #12
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I'm hearing the same tune on here that was playing before January 6th... unreal.
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Old March 10, 2021, 08:21 AM   #13
ligonierbill
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Pennsylvania recently changed from "Game Protectors" to "Game Wardens" officially. Everyone used that term anyway. They are welcome on our place; wish they would catch the weasels that shoot deer and leave them.
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Old March 10, 2021, 10:42 AM   #14
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I have heard stories of police (probably sheriff's office) using game wardens to enter private property without a warrant in order to do surveillance having nothing to do with enforcing the game laws -- because it would be illegal for them to do it themselves but the game warden has special privileges. Assuming this is true (it smells true) I have a problem with that. And I'm not a hunter and very seldom fish.
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Old March 10, 2021, 10:49 AM   #15
NoSecondBest
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Nothing like “hear-say” to support a point of view.
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Old March 10, 2021, 11:34 AM   #16
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Quote:
Pahoo.........First off, you may like the term "Game-Wardens" but the preferred title ls "Conservation Officers"....
Says who?
I have two cousins that are Game Wardens........they laugh at "conservation officer", considering it a title that makes millennials happy.
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Old March 10, 2021, 11:57 AM   #17
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IOWA, for one

Quote:
Says who?
The state of Iowa as well as other Midwest states .....

We also refer to them as "Carp-Cops".

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Old March 10, 2021, 12:03 PM   #18
eastbank
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if i find camera,s on my land that i was not informed about and approved to be there, they will disappear.
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Old March 10, 2021, 01:36 PM   #19
Frank Ettin
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zxcvbob
I have heard stories of police (probably sheriff's office) using game wardens to enter private property without a warrant in order to do surveillance having nothing to do with enforcing the game laws -- because it would be illegal for them to do it themselves but the game warden has special privileges. Assuming this is true (it smells true) I have a problem with that. And I'm not a hunter and very seldom fish.
Phooey! What a thoroughly useless post. An anecdote is not evidence.

If you can't support a claim like this with verifiable, credible, corroborating evidence the reasonable inference is that your claim is not true. Your "smell test" is meaningless and suggests a bad case of confirmation bias.
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Old March 10, 2021, 03:52 PM   #20
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We've all heard stories about abuses of authority (and actual mistakes) by Game Wardens/Conservation officers. What we need is documented evidence beyond rumor and hearsay.

Having the CO's operating under different rules than regular law enforcement isn't automatically a bad thing.

I know of one case where a Conservation Officer was able to stop an armed multiple murderer because he operated under different rules than the police.

the killer had murdered 3 teenage campers, and evaded police for most of a summer by hiding in the woods. He had been spotted several times, armed with a rifle, but the police couldn't catch him, and, under the rules of engagement at that time, the police could not shoot him, unless he shot at them, which the suspect never did.

A CO, operating under rules different from the police spotted him and fired several shots, wounding him with buckshot, leading to his immediate capture, arrest and eventual conviction. In that case, those different rules lead to the capture of a murderer, so I don't automatically consider them a bad thing.

That being said, individuals can, and sometimes do exceed their authority, and when this is a deliberate act, we need to have it ended.

I am unsure of the legality of placing cameras or other devices on private property without the informed consent of the owner, when not part of a court ordered investigation. (obtained via a warrant). I understand that a Game Warden's "warrantless" search authority generally does not include the interior of buildings (though it may include vehicles..) Different states have different rules.

Anyone/everyone operating under the law to enforce the law needs to stay within the law while doing it. This is tough and leads to a lot of frustration sometimes, but its our system. There are flaws, there are things we should improve, documented evidence of instances where violations have happened will help do that.
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Old March 10, 2021, 04:23 PM   #21
Don P
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Here in Florida CO or Fish and Wildlife officers have the ultimate police powers in Florida. Can access anyone's property with out warrants. Unsure about gaining access to ones home
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Old March 10, 2021, 07:33 PM   #22
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Yep, here in FL cops take them along for remote property busts so they may not need a warrant;
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Old March 10, 2021, 07:39 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FITASC
...here in FL cops take them along for remote property busts so they may not need a warrant
Evidence?
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Old March 10, 2021, 09:20 PM   #24
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Legal question for Frank and the other lawyers: If hypothetically the sheriff did take a game warden along to search for drugs or something, (hear me out) he could legally enter the property without a warrant to search for poached game, etc, and snoop around while he's there. If he did find illegal drugs or something totally unrelated to to fish and game regulations, wouldn't that evidence be inadmissible in court? I don't think it could even be used as probable cause for the sheriff to get a warrant; "fruit of the poisoned tree"

I'm wondering if the apocryphal stories are just that.
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Old March 10, 2021, 11:14 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zxcvbob
....If hypothetically the sheriff did take a game warden along to search for drugs or something, (hear me out) he could legally enter the property without a warrant to search for poached game, etc, and snoop around while he's there. If he did find illegal drugs or something totally unrelated to to fish and game regulations, wouldn't that evidence be inadmissible in court?....
Answering that would require a lot of research, which I'm not inclined to do. It would also be detail dependent.
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