DNR receives favorable Minnesota Supreme decision on boat searches
The Minnesota Supreme Court today ruled that Minnesota Department of
Natural Resources conservation officers may search boats and live wells
without probable cause.
The ruling reversed a lower court?s decision that had prohibited them from
conducting inspections of fish in angler?s live wells.
?The Supreme Court carefully balanced privacy rights and resource
conservation interests,? said DNR Enforcement Director Mike Hamm, ?and ruled
in favor of limited inspections by conservation officers to help sustain our
The DNR, along with angling and sporting groups, had been very concerned
with a lower court decision that stated officers were required to have
probable cause to inspect anglers? boats.
?This ruling will help Minnesota conservation officers, who have protected
the State resource since 1887, preserve these resources for generations to
come, ? Hamm said.
Fishing plays an important role in the lives of many Minnesotans and the
corresponding need for effective regulation to protect the viability of the
state?s fish and game resources was confirmed today by the Minnesota Supreme
Court?s decision on this matter, Hamm noted.
The decision does not grant conservation officers powers beyond that of
other law enforcement officers. Instead, recognizes that fishing is largely
a recreational privilege and those ?who chose to apply for this privilege
accept the conditions imposed to the sport of game fishing.?
The ruling is consistent with other cases, including Montana?s Boyer case in
which the Montana Supreme Court ruled ?no objectively reasonable expectation
of privacy exists when a wildlife enforcement officer checks for hunting and
fishing licenses in open season near game habitat, inquires about game
taken, and requests to inspect game in the field.?
?The ruling recognizes how absurd it would be - because fishing can take
hours or even days over broad areas - for conservations officers to
individually watch every angler to determine if probable cause existed,?
This case differs from State v. Larsen (in which the Minnesota Supreme Court
prohibited the search of an ice fishing house without probable cause).
The court?s position is that fish shelters are erected to protect occupants
from the elements and often provide eating, sleeping and other facilities
that allow for a reasonable expectation of privacy. That?s different than an
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