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Appeals Court Upholds Dismissal Ruling in Minnesota Poaching Case


Minnesota man has 13 poaching charges dropped under fourth amendment violation.

An accused Minnesota poacher who had all charges dismissed has had the decision upheld by a court of appeals after a judge says a DNR tracking device required a warrant.

In 2014, Minnesota DNR officers got a tracking order to place a GPS device on the pickup of Joshua Liebl. Officers secretly placed the device and later caught Liebl transporting an 8-point buck illegally killed with a rifle bullet in a shotguns-only area.

Officers had been investigating Liebl and three other men in the case for five years prior.

Liebl’s arrest happened on October 21, before the start of firearms season. Search warrants on Liebl’s home later turned up antlers and mounts from 28 different deer and even a piebald buck in Liebl’s freezer. He was subsequently hit with 13 charges in the case.

Inforum reports these charges included things like hunting with artificial lights, a suspended or revoked license, failing to tag game and hunting out of season.

But all of the evidence gathered by the DNR officers turned out to be for naught. That’s because when the officers got the order to place the device, they didn’t have a search warrant.

This means the placing of the GPS device was found to be a violation of Liebl’s Fourth Amendment rights, which protect against unreasonable search and seizure. Charges were dismissed by Lac Qui Parle County District Judge Thoman Van Hon back in April.

According to Inforum, the County didn’t let the case go easy, and it made it to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. It was there attorney Richard Stulz argued the ruling had been a mistake, saying a finding of probable cause was sufficient from information submitted to the court prior to the order.

But the Court of Appeals upheld Judge Van Horn’s ruling.

“Because the tracking order was not based on a probable-cause finding by the issuing court, the tracking order was not a valid substitute for a search warrant,” Judge John Smith wrote with his decision.

When this story first broke last year, Minnesota DNR Lieutenant Gary Nordseth told reporters that Liebl had only registered four deer since 2004.

In fact, Liebl was previously convicted of shining deer back in 2013, resulting in the loss of his Minnesota hunting license. When we first reported this story to you last year, there were some DNR officials who sad it was the worst poaching case they’d ever seen.

“Everybody heard rumors about [Liebl] at the barbershop and that kind of thing,” said Dustin Shourds, regional director of the Minnesota Deer Hunter’s Association. “When it all came down, it was quite a shock.”


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Appeals Court Upholds Dismissal Ruling in Minnesota Poaching Case