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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Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting / C.A.S.H.
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