Today marks opening day for antlered deer here in Pennsylvania. Hundreds of hunters take to the woods to fill their freezers for the year to come or to find that trophy deer. Every year, individuals are charged with violating the game code.
I previously blogged that the PA Game Commission Officers (GCOs) and Wildlife Conservation Officers (WLCOs) would be allowed to utilize body cameras after taking a course approved by the Pennsylvania State Police. This takes effect on December 31, 2014, which means that come January 1, 2015, GCOs and WLCOs MAY be equipped with the ability to record interactions between themselves and hunters. As deer season doesn’t end until January 24, 2015 this means that there is the potential for an interaction with GCOs and WLCOs wearing body cameras.
What should you do if you are stopped by a GCO or WLCO? Be courteous and polite but do not be intimidated by threats of authority. If you are uncomfortable answering their questions, tell them that you would like to consult with an attorney prior to answering any more questions.
As previously blogged about, Jack Coble was able to successfully challenge his conviction under 34 Pa. C.S. § 2126(a)(6) which makes it unlawful for a person to “refuse to answer, without evasion, upon request of any representative of the commission, any pertinent question pertaining to the killing or wounding of any game or wildlife killed or wounded, or the disposition of the entire carcass or any part thereof,” by asserting it was a violation of his 5th Amendment and Article 1 Section 9 right against self incrimination.
While the court opinion and order were limited to Coble’s particular circumstance, the lack of opposition by the Assistant District Attorney and the lack of intervention by the PA Game Commission and Attorney General’s Office seems to suggest that an individual charged under this subsection could make a similar successful argument. We believe that individuals confronted by GCOs and WLCOs have a constitutional right against self incrimination and as such are entitled to remain silent and/or consult an attorney.
Navigating the complexities of the legal system can be confusing and sometimes even frightening. If you have an interaction with the PA Game Commission this season and want legal representation, don’t hesitate to give us a call anytime, toll free, at 888-313-0416. Prince Law Offices is dedicated to protecting all of your constitutional rights!