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Rep. LaFave introduces plan to end DNR’s warrantless searches of private property

The bill would require DNR conservation officers, of their law enforcement division, to follow the same standards as all other law enforcement officers and acquire a warrant before entering private property without consent
State Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain)
State Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain)(WLUC)
Published: Feb. 18, 2021 at 5:40 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WLUC) - State Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain) introduced a measure Thursday to protect the private property rights of Michiganders.

House Bill 4315 would require Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation officers, of their law enforcement division, to follow the same standards as all other law enforcement officers and acquire a warrant before entering private property without consent, LaFave said. This would apply unless the landowner consents, a DNR officer is in hot pursuit of a criminal suspect or the officer reasonably believes evidence of a crime will be destroyed or concealed, or an individual will be in danger if they wait to seek a warrant.

“Currently, the DNR uses the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, and the open fields doctrine as an excuse to broadly enter people’s private property without obtaining a warrant,” LaFave said. “As Michigan residents and American citizens, we have rights that they completely disregard because of how current law is written.  That’s why I am introducing HB 4315 – it’s a common-sense reform to make sure residents’ rights are protected.”

LaFave said Michigan residents deserve to be free from undue government intrusions on their privacy, including warrantless searches by law enforcement, as made clear in the Fourth Amendment in the U.S. Bill of Rights.

“The Fourth Amendment guarantees freedom from unreasonable search and seizures, and that shouldn’t change whether it be traditional law enforcement agencies, or any other government authorities with the power to infringe upon an individual’s life, liberty, or property,” LaFave said. “It’s the same thing every hunting season – I receive complaints from hunters in the Upper Peninsula frustrated that DNR officers trespass on their land without permission, on a fishing expedition just looking for a violation. It’s asinine. If the DNR has evidence of something such as poaching or illegal baiting, why shouldn’t they be required to get a warrant like state police, sheriffs, and public safety? And if they don’t have enough evidence for a warrant, then they have no business invading people’s private property. It’s that simple.”

Senator Ed McBroom (R-Waucedah Township) has introduced the identical bill in the Senate. Joining Representative LaFave as co-sponsors on the legislation are U.P. lawmakers Rep. Greg Markkanen (R-Hancock) and Rep. John Damoose (R-Harbor Springs).

“I have never understood why conservation officers have such broad authority to forgo due process and, in effect, violate the constitutional rights of property owners by trespassing on their land without a warrant,” McBroom said. “It doesn’t make sense and it shouldn’t be happening. State police can’t do it. Local sheriffs can’t do it. DNR conservation officers shouldn’t be able to, either. This legislation will restore order and fairness in state law, and I strongly urge our colleagues to join us with their support.”

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