Court Rejects DNR Home Search And Fish Seizure

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. - March 31, 2014 - PRLog -- AITKIN – Judge John R. Solien recently ordered that a DNR search of a fisherman’s home on Lake Mille Lacs for fish was illegal and that the evidence seized could not be used in court.

“The decision is important for the protection of privacy of Minnesota sportsmen,” said Bloomington Attorney Bill Peterson.

The case arose on July 20, 2013, when fisherman Richard Southworth was fishing on Lake Mille Lacs. He was stopped for having an extra fishing line in the water by Conservation Officer Christopher Tetrault.

Tetrault then asked to search Southworth’s home freezer for fish but Southworth said “I wish you wouldn’t.” When Tetrault pressed further, Southworth said “I guess I can’t stop you can I.”

Judge Solien noted that Tetrault did not have a search warrant and concluded that Southworth did not consent to the search.  He ordered the evidence was not admissible in court.

After Tetrault entered the Southworth home, DNR claimed that the officer found more fish in his freezer than what he was allowed by law.

Next DNR seized Southworth’s fishing boat and trailer and claimed it to be confiscated to the state.

“It was a valuable rig and with the victory on the evidence suppression in court, I think we can get it back to the Southworths,” said Peterson.

The case follows the DNR fish house searches of ten years ago when the Minnesota Supreme Court and Court of Appeals that held searches of fish houses without a warrant was unconstitutional.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States protects citizens in places or circumstances where they have “an expectation of privacy.”

Peterson noted that a citizen’s home is often considered the most important place where privacy is expected.

Bill Peterson

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