MADISON, Minn. (AP) —A Minnesota judge has dismissed criminal charges against a man accused in a high-profile poaching case because of a tracking device used by authorities.
District Judge Thomas Van Hon ruled Monday that the GPS device that conservation officers attached to Joshua Liebl’s truck was illegal because they didn’t have a search warrant. He said the state violated the hunter’s Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.
The tracking device was placed on Liebl’s pickup in September 2014. Conservation officers used it to locate Liebl when they arrested him in October 2014.
The 38-year-old Dawson man faced 13 criminal charges after officers confiscated 37 dead deer, dozens of guns and other wildlife from his property.
In his ruling, Von Hon agreed with the defense’s argument that a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision in a 2012 case had made it clear that a search warrant is required to place a GPS tracking device on a vehicle.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources obtained a “tracking order to attach the device to Liebl’s truck, but Von Hon ruled that the order was insufficient and that a search warrant was needed instead. The judge added that the search warrant likely would’ve been granted to the department if it had been requested.
Liebl’s attorney, Bill Peterson, said the ruling “is an important victory for the rule of law and for the privacy of sportsmen in Minnesota.”
“It should establish once and for all that DNR enforcement officers are subject to the same constitutional standards as any policemen or other law enforcement officer,” he said.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources enforcement chief Lt. Col. Rodman Smith said the agency is disappointed with the judge’s ruling.
He said the agency is deciding whether to appeal and is currently in talks with the prosecutor and the DNR’s general counsel. If the agency decides to appeal, it probably would file those papers in the coming days.
“It’s going to be a short turnaround if we appeal,” Smith said.
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