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Thread: Marine Resources Commission and Reasonable Suspicion

  1. #1
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    Looking for some input on a question that I buddy of mine had tonight. So this thread fits, I was open carrying while we were at the boat ramp

    Here is the question - Can a Virginia Marine Resources Commision Marine Patrol Officer demand that you show him the contents of your fish boxes after having pulled your boat out of the water upon completion of a fishing trip. For discussion purposes, the officer has not even seen you catch a fish from his vantage point.

    Scenario two is the same except your boat is still in the water. He has not even seen you catch a fish from his vantage point.

    I'm pretty sure I know the answer to the question but would love to have one of the legal gurus around here summarize for me After a few responses, I'll post what a Game Warden told my buddy on the phone tonight....it'll make your ears turn red:what:



    Thanks in advance for any responses.





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    bayboy42 wrote:
    Looking for some input on a question that I buddy of mine had tonight. So this thread fits, I was open carrying while we were at the boat ramp

    Here is the question - Can a Virginia Marine Resources Commision Marine Patrol Officer demand that you show him the contents of your fish boxes after having pulled your boat out of the water upon completion of a fishing trip. For discussion purposes, the officer has not even seen you catch a fish from his vantage point.

    Scenario two is the same except your boat is still in the water. He has not even seen you catch a fish from his vantage point.

    I'm pretty sure I know the answer to the question but would love to have one of the legal gurus around here summarize for me After a few responses, I'll post what a Game Warden told my buddy on the phone tonight....it'll make your ears turn red:what:



    Thanks in advance for any responses.



    Hmmmm....after some research, the potential answer is not what I expected....

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    bayboy42 wrote:
    Can a Virginia Marine Resources Commision Marine Patrol Officer demand that you show him the contents of your fish boxes after having pulled your boat out of the water upon completion of a fishing trip. For discussion purposes, the officer has not even seen you catch a fish from his vantage point.

    Scenario two is the same except your boat is still in the water. He has not even seen you catch a fish from his vantage point.
    Let me start by saying that I am a law student and not an attorney admitted by the Bar to practice law in the Commonwealth. In addition, I am only a first year law student so I certainly do not present myself as an expert in any regard.

    Finally, I should note that if the boat is on saltwater or on a navigable waterway of the Commonwealth, then Admiralty Law applies and may offer exceptions to warrant requirements of which I am unaware since I have yet to take Admiralty Law.

    Having made all of my disclaimers, it appears that generally, Commonwealth case law seems on the side of the citizen in this regard.

    A few cases to illustrate.

    Johnson v. Commw., 496 S.E.2d 143 (Va. Ct. App. 1998) (finding that a VMRC warrantless search of a warehouse and adjacent dock on private business premises was a violation of defendant's 4th Amendment rights)

    Commw. v. Wilkins, Unpublished Opinion (Va. Ct. App. Jun. 24, 2008) (finding that a game warden was not authorized to conduct a warrantless search of hunter and the fruits of that search were properly suppressed during a prosecution for being a felon in possession of a firearm)

    I took a quick look at both the Code of Virginia and the Administrative Code and do not see any enabling legislation or regulations that would attach an implicit consent to search to acceptance of a fishing license although I suspect that this would be the argument the Commonwealth would make in any prosecution based upon such a search.


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    jpierce wrote:
    bayboy42 wrote:
    Can a Virginia Marine Resources Commision Marine Patrol Officer demand that you show him the contents of your fish boxes after having pulled your boat out of the water upon completion of a fishing trip. For discussion purposes, the officer has not even seen you catch a fish from his vantage point.

    Scenario two is the same except your boat is still in the water. He has not even seen you catch a fish from his vantage point.
    Let me start by saying that I am a law student and not an attorney admitted by the Bar to practice law in the Commonwealth. In addition, I am only a first year law student so I certainly do not present myself as an expert in any regard.

    Finally, I should note that if the boat is on saltwater or on a navigable waterway of the Commonwealth, then Admiralty Law applies and may offer exceptions to warrant requirements of which I am unaware since I have yet to take Admiralty Law.

    Having made all of my disclaimers, it appears that generally, Commonwealth case law seems on the side of the citizen in this regard.

    A few cases to illustrate.

    Johnson v. Commw., 496 S.E.2d 143 (Va. Ct. App. 1998) (finding that a VMRC warrantless search of a warehouse and adjacent dock on private business premises was a violation of defendant's 4th Amendment rights)

    Commw. v. Wilkins, Unpublished Opinion (Va. Ct. App. Jun. 24, 2008) (finding that a game warden was not authorized to conduct a warrantless search of hunter and the fruits of that search were properly suppressed during a prosecution for being a felon in possession of a firearm)

    I took a quick look at both the Code of Virginia and the Administrative Code and do not see any enabling legislation or regulations that would attach an implicit consent to search to acceptance of a fishing license although I suspect that this would be the argument the Commonwealth would make in any prosecution based upon such a search.
    Thanks John!!!! I reviewed both cases that you cited in your response. I took an in-depth look at both the Code of VA and the Administrative Code and ended up with the same outcome that you did. Other states have specific laws that deal with recreational fish caught on that states waterways being made available for inspection by conservation officers.....VA has no such wording in any of theirs. In the other states that do.....there is caselaw that indicates that 4th amendment rights were not violated as there was no expectation of privacy. I have yet to determine what effect, if any, Admiralty Law has on this topic.

    If anyone else has any insight on this topic, please post.


  5. #5
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    bayboy42 wrote:
    jpierce wrote:
    bayboy42 wrote:
    Can a Virginia Marine Resources Commision Marine Patrol Officer demand that you show him the contents of your fish boxes after having pulled your boat out of the water upon completion of a fishing trip. For discussion purposes, the officer has not even seen you catch a fish from his vantage point.

    Scenario two is the same except your boat is still in the water. He has not even seen you catch a fish from his vantage point.
    Let me start by saying that I am a law student and not an attorney admitted by the Bar to practice law in the Commonwealth. In addition, I am only a first year law student so I certainly do not present myself as an expert in any regard.

    Finally, I should note that if the boat is on saltwater or on a navigable waterway of the Commonwealth, then Admiralty Law applies and may offer exceptions to warrant requirements of which I am unaware since I have yet to take Admiralty Law.

    Having made all of my disclaimers, it appears that generally, Commonwealth case law seems on the side of the citizen in this regard.

    A few cases to illustrate.

    Johnson v. Commw., 496 S.E.2d 143 (Va. Ct. App. 1998) (finding that a VMRC warrantless search of a warehouse and adjacent dock on private business premises was a violation of defendant's 4th Amendment rights)

    Commw. v. Wilkins, Unpublished Opinion (Va. Ct. App. Jun. 24, 2008) (finding that a game warden was not authorized to conduct a warrantless search of hunter and the fruits of that search were properly suppressed during a prosecution for being a felon in possession of a firearm)

    I took a quick look at both the Code of Virginia and the Administrative Code and do not see any enabling legislation or regulations that would attach an implicit consent to search to acceptance of a fishing license although I suspect that this would be the argument the Commonwealth would make in any prosecution based upon such a search.
    Thanks John!!!! I reviewed both cases that you cited in your response. I took an in-depth look at both the Code of VA and the Administrative Code and ended up with the same outcome that you did. Other states have specific laws that deal with recreational fish caught on that states waterways being made available for inspection by conservation officers.....VA has no such wording in any of theirs. In the other states that do.....there is caselaw that indicates that 4th amendment rights were not violated as there was no expectation of privacy. I have yet to determine what effect, if any, Admiralty Law has on this topic.

    If anyone else has any insight on this topic, please post.
    Sheesh I spoke to soon. The only time I've seen VMRC agents routinelydo this is during the winter striped bass season. Further research found this:

    4VAC20-252-30. General prohibitions and requirements.

    K. Holding any permit issued by the commission to fish for striped bass, recreationally or commercially, shall authorize any commission personnel or their designees to inspect, measure, weigh, or take biological samples from any striped bass in possession of the permit holder.

    I guess that is where they are drawing their authority from.


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    What will the government want to do next ? Measure my butt to make sure I'm wearing the correct size underwear. I can hear it now, " well sir it's for your own protection.Lack of circulation is a serious problem".

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