D.Idaho: Idaho fish and game checkpoints that minimally detain nonhunters and fishers isn’t likely a violation of 4A

Plaintiff sought a preliminary injunction against wildlife checkpoint stops that included nonhunters and fishers. The court finds that there is little likelihood of success on the merits. The state’s interest in protection of wildlife is high, and, on balance, the intrusion on those not involved in hunting and fishing is minimal, limited to one question. If they answer no to the question where they’d been hunting or fishing, and it isn’t otherwise apparent, they are on their way. Their seizure is minimal and not sufficiently unreasonable on the totality to merit injunctive relief. Tanner v. Idaho Dep’t of Fish & Game, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 172950 (D. Idaho Oct. 3, 2019):

However, not every seizure violates the Fourth Amendment: only unreasonable seizures do so. “There is a two-step analysis applicable to Fourth Amendment checkpoint cases. First, the court must determine whether the primary purpose of the checkpoint was to advance the general interest in crime control. If so, then the stop is … per se invalid.” United States v. Fraire, 575 F.3d 929, 932 (9th Cir. 2009).

Here, the primary purpose of the wildlife check stations is likely not crime control. In a policy statement, IFG states the purpose of the wildlife check stations is to “effectively manage the state’s wildlife resources” by making field contacts with sportsmen, collecting biological and harvest data to support wildlife management plans, receiving public input, and enforcing state laws and rules. Dkt. 30-2, at 1. Though the wildlife check stations may certainly lead to enforcement of criminal statutes, “the use of law enforcement techniques does not automatically transform [them] into a crime control device for Fourth Amendment purposes.” Fraire, 575 F.3d at 932. There is compelling legal authority that the primary purpose of these wildlife check stations is narrowly focused to advance the public’s interest in wildlife preservation and management, not to control crime, and thus they are not per se unconstitutional. See id. (holding a similar type of checkpoint station was not unconstitutional); see also State v. Thurman, 134 Idaho 90, 996 P.2d 309, 316 (Idaho 1999) (same).

Because the wildlife check station stops are likely not per se unconstitutional, the Court would need to next “judge the checkpoint’s reasonableness, hence, its constitutionality, on the basis of the individual circumstances.” Fraire, 575 F.3d at 932. Tanner argues that the wildlife check stations cannot be reasonable because requiring “non-sportsmen” to stop exceeds the powers § 1201 gives to IFG. IFG counters that the most practical way to implement § 1201 is to stop all vehicles and inquire if the passengers are hunters, fishers, or trappers. Otherwise, they reason, there is “no effective way to determine which vehicles contain hunters, fishermen, or trappers and which do not.” Dkt. 31, at 5.

If a seizure is not made pursuant to a warrant, probable cause, or any warrant exception, “[t]he reasonableness of [the] seizure[] … depends on a balance between the public interest and the individual’s right to personal security free from arbitrary interference by law officers.” Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47, 50, 99 S. Ct. 2637, 61 L. Ed. 2d 357 (1979) (internal quotations and citations omitted). “Consideration of the constitutionality of such seizures involves a weighing of the gravity of the public concerns served by the seizure, the degree to which the seizure advances the public interest, and the severity of the interference with individual liberty.” Id. at 50-51.

The court also finds that the state constitution would not likely be more protective.

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