Supreme Court Rules Section of PA Game Code Unconstitutional

This is interesting….

Supreme Court rules section of Pa. Game Code unconstitutional
5/5/2005, 10:26 a.m. ET
The Associated Press

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A section of the Pennsylvania Game Code that requires all people to identify themselves to game officers upon demand is unconstitutional, the state’s highest court ruled.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Wednesday affirmed a lower court’s ruling that section 904 of the code violated the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches.

The high court said the section, which allowed game officers to stop any person at any time and demand identification — even if no criminal wrongdoing was suspected — was too broad to be constitutional.

Game officers must adhere to the same standards as other law enforcement officers, the court said, citing the need for such officers to have a reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle and probable cause in order to search it.

The ruling came in the case of Don R. Ickes, an Osterburg man who had been accused of using his ultralight aircraft to disrupt deer hunters on the first day of buck season in 1998. Four months later, in April 1999, two game officers came to Ickes’ property to question him and repeatedly asked Ickes to identify himself, but he refused, according to court documents.

Although Ickes was cleared of any wrongdoing in the airplane case, he was cited for refusing to give the officers identification and was fined $800. Ickes challenged the code in the Court of Common Pleas, which ruled against him. The Commonwealth Court agreed with Ickes.

When the game officers came to Ickes’ property, there was no crime in progress and the officers did not have a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, according to the Supreme Court’s opinion.

“Outside of a legitimate stop, police retain the right to ask people to identify themselves; if a mere encounter, however, people retain the right not to do so,” the opinion said.

A phone number listed under Ickes’ name rang unanswered Tuesday.

The Legislature last year approved changes to the game law to resolve the constitutional problems, said Jerry Feaser, a spokesman for the game commission. The changes, which were signed into law by Gov. Ed Rendell in July, require people to identify themselves “after having been told by the officer that the person is the subject of an official investigation.”

The revised code also makes it illegal for someone to interfere with or resist an arrest, inspection or investigation by a game officer rather than requiring them to identify themselves.

Read the whole case here.

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