”20-HB2492/SB2292 – VanHuss/Bowling

Bill Description

Present law authorizes:
(1) The executive director of the wildlife resources agency to go upon any property, outside of buildings, posted or otherwise, in the performance of the executive director's duty to enforce all laws relating to wildlife; and
(2) An authorized employee charged with managing wildlife populations and any state or local peace officer to conduct warrantless searches as provided by law, and to execute a warrant to search for and seize any equipment, business records, merchandise or wildlife taken, used, or possessed in connection with a violation of the laws governing nongame wildlife and endangered species. Any such officer or agent may, without a warrant, arrest any person who such officer or agent has probable cause to believe is committing a violation in the presence or view of the officer or agent. An officer or agent who has made an arrest of a person in connection with any such violation may search such person or business records at the time of arrest and seize any wildlife, records, or property taken, or used, in connection with any such violation.
THIS BILL
Notwithstanding the authorization described above or any other law to the contrary, this bill limits the authority for a wildlife resources officer to enter privately owned property, in the course of performing the wildlife resources officer's duties regarding the enforcement of local, state, and federal wildlife, conservation, and environmental protection laws, to the following situations:
(1) Pursuant to a valid search warrant;
(2) With the written permission of the landowner or the lessee of the property. In order to be valid, written permission to enter upon property must have been manually executed or reauthorized by the landowner or lessee within the 364 days immediately preceding the date of the wildlife resources officer's entry onto the property;
(3) Upon a wildlife resources officer observing, recording, documenting, and corroborating the commission of an illegal act that the wildlife resources officer is authorized to enforce from outside the private property;
(4) To dispatch crippled or distressed wildlife; or
(5) To respond to a report of an emergency or another overt threat to public safety.
This bill specifies that the mere suspicion of the possession, discharge, or use of one or more items that are legal to possess, such as a muzzle device or silencer, will not constitute reasonable suspicion or probable cause for a wildlife resources officer to enter private property under this bill. This bill provides that if a wildlife resources officer enters private property under items (1)-(5) above, then the wildlife resources officer must immediately notify the landowner or lessee. This bill further provides that a landowner or lessee has the right to involve local law enforcement personnel and other citizens of the landowner's or lessee's choosing to act as witnesses to the officer's presence.
Under this bill, if a wildlife resources officer:
(1) Is equipped with a body-mounted camera while on private property under items (1)-(5) above, then the camera must be activated, unobscured, and recording the entire time that the wildlife resources officer is on the private property;
(2) Enters private property under item (1), then the wildlife resources officer must show the search warrant to the landowner or lessee and the wildlife resources officer must permit the landowner or lessee and any witnesses to observe and follow the wildlife resources officer while the wildlife resources officer is on the property; and
(3) Enters private property under item (4) above, then the wildlife resources officer must, prior to dispatching the wildlife, show the wildlife to the landowner or lessee, if the landowner or lessee requests to see the wildlife.
This bill prohibits a wildlife resources officer from confiscating, taking into possession, or holding any private property, including, but not limited to, cash, vehicles, weapons, tools, or wild game, without documenting and corroborating the commission of a felony offense and having a local law enforcement officer, such as a county sheriff or deputy or city police officer, physically present to protect the owner from an illegal search and seizure.
Under this bill:
(1) Any evidence that is obtained pursuant to a search or seizure conducted in violation of this bill will be inadmissible in any judicial proceeding;
(2) Any arrest made pursuant to a search or seizure conducted in violation of this bill will be invalid;
(3) If a wildlife resources officer enters private property in violation of this bill, the officer may be prosecuted for any offense applicable to the wildlife resources officer's illegal entry and may be held personally civilly liable for any damages that the wildlife resources officer causes while making such entry.

ON MARCH 12, 2020, THE SENATE ADOPTED AMENDMENT #1 AND PASSED SENATE BILL 2292, AS AMENDED.
AMENDMENT #1 rewrites this bill. Present law specifies that the wildlife enforcement authority (described above in the bill summary) does not permit search or inspection of a person's dwelling or place of business without a search warrant. This amendment adds "interior of an automobile" to those listed places for which the present law does not permit a search or inspection without a warrant

TLRC Position

We fully support this bill. It also strengthens civil asset forfeiture by adding vehicles to the property protected from unwarranted search and seizure.

TLRC Observed Process

House moved to substitute and conform to SB2292
House FLOOR VOTE: PASSED bipartisanly ON 6/18/2020
Ayes...............................................82
Noes................................................4
Present and not voting……………….2
PASSED Senate unanimously.
Became Public Chapter 799

Vote Result: Passed

Score: +5

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