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WokMaster1
04-17-2008, 9:17 AM
http://sports.espn.go.com/outdoors/general/columns/story?columnist=swan_james&page=g_col_swan_game-warden_ride-along


Quote[Ride along with game warden an eye-opener
Game wardens are among the least-appreciated links in wildlife
conservation. To fully understand their job, go for a ride along
By James A. Swan, Ph.D.
Author of "In Defense of Hunting"
(Archive)
Updated: July 6, 2006, 5:35 PM ET
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I recently wrote a column about the plight of California game wardens underfunded, undersupported and underappreciated.

My article was prompted by a report suggesting the 200 California game wardens are paid about half of what their California Highway Patrol counterparts are paid, despite having a much larger jurisdiction to police and little or no backup.

After the article came out, I was invited to Sacramento to meet with some of the so-called Thin Green Line.

While we were sipping coffee, their lobbyist came in to report there were proposals in both the Assembly and the Senate to raise funding for game wardens. Cross your fingers.

After a celebration, I was invited to spend the afternoon riding along on patrol with warden Lt. John Laughlin.

After filling out the paperwork, I hopped in the cruiser with Laughlin, who was working a patrol along the Sacramento River in and near the state capitol, where, incidentally, the shad are running like gang-busters, stripers are passing through in waves, sturgeon are always possible and the first chinook salmon of the season are beginning to appear all within view of the business district.

We began the patrol in Miller Park, on the west side of town. Sitting in the patrol car, we marked people fishing along the bank. Then Laughlin set off on foot to check licenses and catches.

The river level was down some, so when we walked up to the first fisherman what we initially had thought was one man turned out to be seven Hmong men fishing for shad.

I hung back a little as Laughlin walked up the first man, who I noted had a fillet knife laying on top of his tackle box. No doubt they all were carrying knives and we were outnumbered seven to two.

This situation is par for the course with game wardens. Everyone is presumably armed.

As Laughlin began to check licenses, one of the men quickly reeled in and set off for his car at a brisk pace. Suspecting the man had something to hide, Laughlin followed and caught up with him before he could drive away.

The man had a fishing license hanging on a string around his neck, which is the law in California, but it was for 2005. He insisted that his 2006 license was at home.

Laughlin listened patiently and said that the law said he was supposed to have a current license with him.

I got my first taste of police paperwork, as I assisted Laughlin in writing up the ticket and calling in the man's name and driver's license to see if he had any outstanding warrants.

The guy had a clean record. Laughlin told him how to respond to the ticket, and we returned to checking fish and licenses.

Remember, if a warden does stop you, he does not need probable cause or a search warrant to conduct a search of your property unlike other police.

Also, if you are carrying a gun when the warden approaches you, don't start unloading it. Ask him what he would like you to do with the gun.

Next we checked four Russians fishing for stripers. Lt. Laughlin is 6-foot-2, plays football in a police league and is a weight lifter. Three of these guys were bigger than him and, again, all were carrying knives.

You try hard not to stereotype people, but when we met the Hmong, I admit that the memory of the Hmong man in Wisconsin who was convicted of killing six people in a deer hunting dispute came to mind. And with the Russians, it's common knowledge the Russian mafia is very involved in poaching sturgeon for caviar.

Indeed, for your own safety, you must be on the defensive when you think like a game warden.

But all these guys were very nice. Laughlin gave a young boy with the group a Deputy Game Warden sticker to wear.

We continued along the bank in the park, checking licenses, catch numbers and lengths of fish. People were friendly. No other tickets were issued.

We could see people fishing and hanging out along the bank on the opposite side of the river. One group appeared to be littering beer cans and cardboard cases. We headed for a bridge to cross over.

The litterbugs must have seen us coming. They were gone by the time we got in position.

We did engage a couple that were taking some R&R and fishing for stripers. The woman had picked up a big bag of trash. We thanked her profusely for doing this.

Unfortunately the Caught Doing Good program, which was aimed at issuing positive citations and a chance at valuable prizes to people found performing exemplary conservation work, has been scrapped in budget cuts. Surely this woman would have received such an award.

The riverbank along the west side of the Sacramento River near Raley Field is a disgusting mess. Laughlin checked a couple of more fishermen, then we came upon a car with expired plates in a brushy area. He called in the car's plates. It was stolen. We picked up on footprints that led to a cane thicket where drug dealers are known to frequent.

Laughlin told me that if I wanted to follow him, I should stay back a few paces; if anything dangerous was to transpire, I should run to the car to radio for backup.

With gun drawn, he approached an obvious squatter camp, complete with fire pit and a tarp shelter. No one was there. There was evidence of a lot of nasty stuff going on, however, and the warden radioed in his findings to the sheriff.

As I told Laughlin afterward, I've worked with other law enforcement officers who would have waited for backup before making a move on a place like that. His response was that the closest warden for backup was at least 30 minutes from responding. It's what he experiences daily, he explained.

We stopped at a convenience store to pick up some bottled water. Without any prompting, the clerk asked Laughlin how much game wardens make. "About $2,700 a month," Laughlin replied. The clerk broke out laughing and said that his brother, who was a prison guard, earned more which happens to be true.

After a few more fishing licenses were checked, we stumbled on to a seemingly depressed homeless man who was living out of his car along the river. Laughlin talked with him for some time to see if the guy was suicidal.

The transient was down to his last few bucks, but coping. Laughlin reported him to the local dispatcher to check him out later, and we drove off.

This was a fairly quiet day.

But Laughlin showed me a place along a deserted stretch of river where many people gather at night to fish, drink and sell drugs. He said that almost every time he checked that area at night he made at least one arrest.

Realize here, folks, that a game warden covers wildlife law, plus regular criminal issues. Their beat takes them to out-of-the-way places, which is where criminals often hide to do business. This is a tough, risky job.

On the way back to the office, Laughlin told me about some of his recent more exciting days: Russian caviar poachers snagging sturgeon; a group smuggling abalones out of California to sell to the Mexican mafia; some guys using ATVs to chase down sturgeon stranded in shallow water after a flood and shooting them with shotguns; a meth-lab bust in a wildlife area; and some very suspicious guys in camouflage training with military weapons in a remote area.

You've got to respect the Thin Green Line for putting their necks on the line. Game wardens deserve a lot more support in the form of personnel, resources and funding.

I'd encourage you to get to know your local game warden. Better still, do a ride along with them, if possible. You will never forget it.

Forever after, when you're out hunting or fishing and someone says, "Here comes the warden," you'll understand what kind of difficult job these guys and gals do to protect our wildlife resources, as well as keep the peace.

They need all the help they can get.


James Swan who has appeared in more than a dozen feature films, including "Murder in the First" and "Star Trek: First Contact," as well as the television series "Nash Bridges," "Midnight Caller" and "Modern Marvels" is the author of the book "In Defense of Hunting." Click to purchase a copy. To learn more about Swan, visit his Web site.]Quote


Can anyone verify that staement about a DFG officer not needing PC nor warrant to search?

Funny how I came upon that article searching for info on what weapons DFG wardens carry or are authorized to use.

E Pluribus Unum
04-17-2008, 9:26 AM
Can anyone verify that staement about a DFG officer not needing PC nor warrant to search?

Funny how I came upon that article searching for info on what weapons DFG wardens carry or are authorized to use.

Absolutely untrue. Game wardens are not above the constitution.

Where this comes from is the requirement of a license to fish and or hunt. If I am in the kern river with a hook in the water then I am fishing and I better have a license. If I do not have one I can be arrested. Any person being arrested can be searched.

If one is in a truck with a rifle and there is blood, feathers, or other animal remains visable then the warden has probable cause to search. If one admits to hunting then he has the right to search for game. Absent any of this, he needs a warrant just like every other police officer.

CSDGuy
04-17-2008, 9:43 AM
If you're hunting or fishing, they can stop you to verify that you have a license. It most likely should be visible... That would be part of the F&G code that they enforce. They (IIRC) can also check what you've caught or taken to be sure that you haven't exceeded your limit. Again, F&G stuff. Beyond that, they need to develop PC like other Peace Officer.

Their training does exceed that of other Peace Officers in that they get more extensive training in enforcement of the F&G Code. If they find stuff incidental to searching for compliance with F&G stuff, you're toast. Most of the Wardens I've met have been absolutely helpful, friendly, and supportive of 2A and outdoor sports.

MudCamper
04-17-2008, 10:06 AM
State game wardens are imune from no-trespassing laws. They can walk onto your private property whenever they damn well please. There is case-law that has set the precedent. I will look for it... This is of course a California thing. Yeah, it may violate the US Bill of Rights, but it hasn't gone to the Supreme Court.

Here it is: BETCHART v. DEPARTMENT OF FISH & GAME , 158 Cal.App.3d 1104 (http://login.findlaw.com/scripts/callaw?dest=ca/calapp3d/158/1104.html)

The entries by the wardens are for the purpose of regulating and managing a state-owned resource. Thus, the circumstances are even more compelling than the warrantless inspections of privately owned assets authorized in the Biswell line of authority. The Legislature has given Fish and Game supervision over property belonging to the sovereign. [4d] The warrantless entries by authorized fish and game personnel onto open fields constitute only a minimal intrusion into the private use of the property. Such entries are permitted where game is present and hunting occurs. The inspections may not exceed the specific limited purpose of enforcing wild game regulations, absent probable cause.

Of course, this refers to rural lands, and "the inspections may not exceed the specific limited purpose of enforcing wild game regulations, absent probable cause" so once he sees that you aren't hunting, you say, "No hunting going on here warden. Now please leave my private property before I call the sheriff. Have a nice day."

sargenv
04-17-2008, 10:25 AM
AFAIK the license on display is only for fishing. When you're out hunting you like to remain camo'd from your game and having a big white/blue/green/insert recent color of license here patch will likely make you stick out. I was out driving around the valley and while out of my vehicle a warden pulled up and asked what I was up to. Seems I was surrounded on all sides by a wildlife area and he was concerned that I might be trespassing. I mentioned that I was up in the valley hunting and he wanted to check on my take but he backed off when I said it was back at the trailer. All of it was really back at the trailer, in the fridge. He went on his way shortly after that.

HK fan
04-17-2008, 5:34 PM
the sacramento bee website has a state employee salary search engine, after reading that wardens only make 2700 a month, I looked the old Lt. up, 72,000 a year base pay

alpha_romeo_XV
04-18-2008, 12:00 PM
I wouldn't get my legal definitions from a journalist/media. The only source more BS than the media is Hollywood and the Web.
I have been checked for a fishing license before noon on January 1st, and had the kayak searched as soon as i pulled up on the beach. Been boarded and had the entire boat searched while hoop netting for lobster at 2 AM. DFG in both cases, and I was obvioulsy fishing and it seemed that was PC enough.

MudCamper
04-18-2008, 1:23 PM
I wouldn't get my legal definitions from a journalist/media.

I have cited the relevant case law in my previous post. I also have a friend who is a CA DFG warden. He, and all his fellow wardens, believe that they have the power to supercede any private property rights that you may have. No warrants or probable cause are necessary. All that is necessary is that any "game" may be present. We may not like it, but it's a fact.

mymonkeyman
04-18-2008, 2:48 PM
This is an extremely complex area of constitutional law. I would just say that Bechart is a relatively narrow decision involving an "open field" intrusion which other cases have said essentially is okay by any LEO (because you have no reasonable expectation of privacy in an open field). Bechart does not imply that a Warden can search your person, effects, vehicle, or residence without PC or a warrant. The more applicable cases are the administrative search doctrine cases, which are so ridiculously all over the place they are nearly impossible to understand.

MudCamper
04-18-2008, 5:15 PM
This is an extremely complex area of constitutional law. I would just say that Bechart is a relatively narrow decision involving an "open field" intrusion which other cases have said essentially is okay by any LEO (because you have no reasonable expectation of privacy in an open field). Bechart does not imply that a Warden can search your person, effects, vehicle, or residence without PC or a permit. The more applicable cases are the administrative search doctrine cases, which are so ridiculously all over the place they are nearly impossible to understand.

All true, but that doesn't change the fact that wardens have a very bad attitude about US 5A and California Art 1 Sect 13. My friend who is a warden flat out believes that he can violate private property and no tresspassing laws whenever he pleases. And he does. And so do all game wardens in the state. When I try to argue with him, he just quotes Betchart.

mymonkeyman
04-18-2008, 6:28 PM
All true, but that doesn't change the fact that wardens have a very bad attitude about US 5A and California Art 1 Sect 13. My friend who is a warden flat out believes that he can violate private property and no tresspassing laws whenever he pleases. And he does. And so do all game wardens in the state. When I try to argue with him, he just quotes Betchart.

It's not surprising. With qualified immunity of individual officers against money damages and the uncertainty relating to administrative searches (plus since DFG is a state agency rather than a municipal agency, the agency itself gets sovereign immunity unlike local PD / Sheriff Dept.), the only thing a game warden has to worry about is if someone really decides to take his ticket to court and fight it up to the appellate level, the worst that could happen is the evidence gets excluded and there is simply one less ticket. It's not like the career-harming effect that a bumbled search does for a normal cop that results in the perp of a serious crime going free.

DesertGunner
04-18-2008, 7:05 PM
I've read a lot of people talking about the "vehicle exception" to the 4th Amendment's warrant requirement, and few people seem to really understand what it means.

Firstly, it is incorrect to think of it as a "vehicle exception". The proper term is a "Readily Mobile Conveyance" exception. The thing searched does not have to be a vehicle. This can also apply to, for example, a trailer pulled by a vehicle.

This exception basically states that if there is Probable Cause to believe that contraband is present, any place that more of said contraband COULD be found is subject to search. If there was PC to believe that drugs were present, this obviously means that pretty much anything is open to search. If the "contraband" is a person (maybe a wanted person who is the R/O of the vehicle), then anywhere a person could be hidden is open to search (probably just the trunk and passenger compartment).

If the officer has Reasonable Suspicion that a person is involved in criminal activity AND that they are armed/dangerous, then the officer can conduct a Terry Frisk of the driver/occupants and passengers, as well as a frisk of the vehicle (passenger compartment and unlocked containers therein) to search for weapons.


If any contraband is found during any of these activities, it is subject to being seized without a warrant as being in Plain View.

aplinker
04-18-2008, 7:07 PM
On the way back to the office, Laughlin told me about some of his recent more exciting days: ...... and some very suspicious guys in camouflage training with military weapons in a remote area.

:rofl2: