by Jan Haagensen, Esq.
I have been thinking about the ways in which state governments attempt
to immunize hunters from criminal prosecution for highly destructive and
criminal behavior—i.e., defiant trespass and assault with a deadly weapon;
lesser offenses include stalking and surveillance of landowners who
repeatedly say no to any form of home invasion. When hunters are the
victims of lethal assaults on their person, the standard of review gets
spun around. A real criminal investigation of a suspected homicide may
actually take place. However, if the victim is a non-hunter, the Game
Commission first adjudicates the investigation and invents the sanctions
for deadly assaults on human beings (such as the loss of a license for
five years or so).
This dichotomy takes away from non-hunters the equal protection of the
law. So too do gross invasions of privacy. The right to privacy is an
element, as I see it, of our very fundamental right to private property.
Any surveillance or identity-checking of a landowner done without probable
cause is a serious infringement upon basic rights of privacy, if such
activity is engaged in by agents of the state, or by state-licensed
hunters. In Pennsylvania, the law on the books demands that hunters must
identify themselves fully and immediately when approached by landowners in
the field. In reality, hunters cover their faces with ski-masks, take off
their coats and cover up the license on their backs, and in many ways defy
requests for identification. Instead the non-hunting members of the
public are far more likely to be rousted for identification in the field.
Frequently non-hunters are surveilled both by agents of the state and by
marauding hunters in the wild. This is a classic and gross violation of
rights of privacy guaranteed through private ownership of property.
Even the request to produce identification is highly improper when it
comes from the state. Hunters when they buy a license impose on themselves
the absolute obligation to fully ID themselves without any form of delay.
In Pennsylvania, I would bet money that no hunter has ever been prosecuted
for their failure to comply with existing law on this subject. Landowners
don’t have hunting licenses pinned to their backs. As such, they are free
of any duty to respond at all to privacy-infringing inquiry from agents of
the state. This kind of surveillance without probable cause is a civil
rights violation of the first order. We all have the right to say “no,” or
to say nothing at all to any form of aggression in the field.
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