Open Fields Doctrine

BY Herschel Smith
3 months, 3 weeks ago

Source.

How much power does the government claim on private land?

“Unfettered,” according to a Commonwealth Court decision in a case pitting the Pennsylvania Game Commission against two private gun clubs.

On Sept. 29, a court ruled against two hunting clubs in their lawsuit accusing the Game Commission of private property rights violations. The Institute for Justice represents both clubs and will appeal.

In its ruling, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania noted the government’s absolute power to “roam private land without consent, warrants or probable cause.”

“Private land isn’t public property,” says institute attorney Josh Windham. “That might seem obvious. But all too many officials, at every level of government, disagree. They think they have a blank check to invade private property. We’ll see what the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has to say about that.”

On Dec. 16, 2021, Pitch Pine and Punxsutawney hunting clubs sued the Game Commission after game wardens consistently entered club lands without permission or warrant, and secretly monitored club members, including photo collection via installation of a hidden game camera. The wardens’ behavior, the lawsuit asserted, was a direct violation of Pennsylvania’s state constitution, which explicitly protects “persons, houses, papers, and possessions.”

Most Americans assume law enforcement must obtain a warrant to enter or surveil private land, but for roughly a century, the Open Fields doctrine has allowed government officials, at state and federal levels, unqualified access to private land.

In its judgment Sept. 29, the Commonwealth Court detailed the alarming powers and “unfettered discretion” assumed by government via Open Fields:

“The facts of this case are not in dispute. The Hunting Clubs are member-owned hunting clubs that own thousands of acres of private land in Clearfield County. Members use the properties to hunt, vacation, and enjoy nature. To ensure their members’ privacy, the Hunting Clubs have posted their properties with no trespassing signs and have installed gates at all entrances to exclude nonmembers and intruders. However, the Entry Statutes empower game wardens with unfettered discretion to enter upon and roam private land without consent, warrants, or probable cause.”

People believe that DNR officers have more power than any other LEO, and DNR officers certainly act like it. Their claim is that since they are after perishable evidence, they need this access.

But that’s just too bad. Police who bust open doors looking for drugs are also after perishable evidence (the drugs could be flushed down a toilet). I have long held that police raids on homes are a violation of the fourth amendment and therefore unconstitutional. Any good man would believe the same thing.

The so-called “open fields” doctrine should be stricken from the books in every state where they exist. Furthermore, I generally don’t like the power granted by the state to game officers. Every man should obey the game laws. But every man won’t, just like crime will happen all day every day across America. Game laws are no different. Violation of game laws still falls within the purview of constitutional protections regardless of what agents of the state think.


Comments

  1. On January 1, 2024 at 1:09 am, Chris Mallory said:

    The Coast Guard is the LEO agency with the most power they can do “safety inspections” without warrants on any boat on a navigable waterway. Doesn’t matter if it is your “home”.

  2. On January 1, 2024 at 4:02 pm, Longbow said:

    “In its ruling, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania noted the government’s absolute power to “roam private land without consent, warrants or probable cause.”

    This is naked Tyranny.

    Remember, boys and girls, the men who violate your Natural and Constitutionally secured rights are proud of themselves. They believe firmly in their own self-righteousness.. “Why?”, you ask? Because they wear a Super Hero Costume and bear a Magic Shield which make them impervious to being wrong.

    everyone should read this… https://www.theburningplatform.com/2024/01/01/corruption-chaos-conflict-fourth-turning-erupts-in-2024/

    h/t to Westernrifleshooters.us

  3. On January 2, 2024 at 6:27 am, jrg said:

    I was aware that Texas game department officers had a right to trespass across fence lines, but did not know that searches did not require a search warrant. In essence, the officer has the discretionary power of unlimited search and seizure.

    That does not maintain prompt and cheerful service from its citizens. I understand that poachers cross property lines and commit crimes there. The game officer pursuing them and wanting to ‘catch them in the act’ – I get that. It is the unlimited access at any time without permission of land owner is where I become uncomfortable. I think most landowners would be glad to help officers catch criminals breaking game laws. This open fields appears to determine that the land owner has no desire to cooperate with game officials. In essence, their feeling is ‘if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear’.

  4. On January 2, 2024 at 10:06 am, Bobsuruncle said:

    I know this first hand as Ive taken the PA Game Commission to court years ago. They regularly violate 4th, 5th amendment rights and property rights of citizens. Their justification as given by the courts when they violate property and constitutional rights is, that it would make their job too difficult to do if they didnt and since they are generally dealing with armed people, the courts uphold the rights violations despite the statesnd federal constitutional arguments, the lower courts just tell you to appeal it, and allow it. Bullshit, they are criminals.

  5. On January 2, 2024 at 10:38 am, Matt said:

    It’s going to take more than pleading to your legislatures and saying, “I will see you in court” to put a stop to the tyrants and bullies, but I am sure the readers here already know that.

  6. On January 2, 2024 at 12:43 pm, Latigo Morgan said:

    I can’t track a wounded animal onto private property without landowner permission, under the penalty of trespassing, but government agents can wander about at will looking for a crime.

    In the West, it is pretty easy to have to cross private property where you don’t even know who the owner is, or how to find them to ask permission.

  7. On January 2, 2024 at 12:54 pm, Grunt said:

    You mean the big dog ruled for the big dog? Shocker.

  8. On January 3, 2024 at 1:51 am, Michael (from Utah) said:

    Just more proof that we don’t live in a free country with actual private property.

  9. On January 3, 2024 at 5:58 am, Rick said:

    How does Open Fields comport with Marbury (1803)?
    Of course, the 4th and 5th A render Open Fields untenable.

  10. On January 11, 2024 at 8:25 pm, Jack Crabb said:

    Tyrrant pricks that run around as game wardens should be mistaken for deer on a regular basis. Ooooopppps.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Police and was published December 31st, 2023 by Herschel Smith.

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