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Testing limits of authority

Testing limits of authority

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Editor:

The management of Wyoming’s fish and wildlife is not an easy task, and I don’t envy those individuals entrusted with this daunting endeavor. Game wardens out in the field face a wide array of challenging situations.

One of these challenges is not infringing upon the personal liberty of Wyoming citizens. Officers often have to make snap judgments in the moment as to whether a course of action is “reasonable” in the face of the law.

One evening during this past fall, while hunting predatory animals on family property with permission, a Wyoming game warden seized my driver’s license during a stop without my authorization or permission and held it in his possession during an “investigation” lasting roughly 20 minutes. This investigation involved driving back to my family’s property, with the warden following, after which it was confirmed that I had in fact received permission prior to entering the property to hunt.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution forbids illegal search and seizure, while subsequent case law has expanded the scope of an officer’s authority in light of an activity being deemed “suspicious” and actions taken thereafter being “reasonable.” Was this a “reasonable” action for this warden to take? Can a game warden compel you somewhere against your will by holding your private property without cause in light of unreasonable circumstances?

I pose this question to the Wyoming Game and Fish: How far are you willing to go? At what point do Wyomingites call your bluff?

 

TALON THARP, Worland

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