Lawsuit: Idaho Fish and Game check stations unconstitutional

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) Check stations set up by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game with officers requiring all motorists to stop are violations of the Idaho and U.S. constitutions, a northern Idaho man said in a lawsuit.

Boundary County resident Steve Tanner in documents filed last week in U.S. District Court asked that Idaho Fish and Game be prohibited from operating the stations while the lawsuit advances.

State officials in court documents defend the check stations as allowed under Idaho law to stop hunters, anglers and trappers to catch poachers, collect harvest information, and check for diseases in game animals.

But Tanner in his complaint said authorities are going too far by illegally stopping motorists who aren't hunting, fishing or trapping. He said the state is incorrectly telling law enforcement officials they can stop anyone.

"That's a scary thing when government has been taught that they can lawfully do what is unlawful," he told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "We don't have a police state in which you set up roadblocks and stop everybody and see what they have."

In the lawsuit, Tanner said he had not been fishing, hunting or trapping when he went around a roadblock area of a check station while driving to his home a few miles (5 kilometers) away on Nov. 18, 2017.

The complaint said several Idaho Department of Fish and Game enforcement officers pursued Tanner before he stopped at a well-lighted local gas station.

Tanner was cited for failing to stop and report at a check station, and fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer in a motor vehicle. Both those misdemeanor charges were later dismissed, according to Idaho court records.

The lawsuit also said that a Bonners Ferry police officer took Tanner into custody for drunk driving and obstructing an officer, but let him go after about 15 minutes and no charges were filed. Tanner in the lawsuit said he was in severe pain because of the handcuffs and the way he was positioned and belted into the patrol vehicle. Tanner told the AP he has obtained the officer's video recording of the encounter.

All three officers and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

The initial lawsuit was filed in Idaho's 1st District Court in September 2018 and moved to federal court in October 2018 at the request of the defendants.

The documents Tanner filed last week seek to ban the check stations with a preliminary injunction until the lawsuit is decided.

Specifically, Tanner says the check stations violate the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and section 17 of Article 1 of the Idaho Constitution. The areas cited by Tanner in the U.S. and state constitutions prohibit unreasonable search and seizures.

State officials in court documents contend the check stations are legal and cite a 1999 decision by the Idaho Court of Appeals. In that case, the court ruled that "hunting is a highly regulated activity, which in turn, correspondingly reduces hunters' reasonable expectations of privacy."

State officials also argue against Tanner's request for the injunction.

"Plaintiff has submitted only conclusory, vague, and speculative allegations regarding alleged irreparable harm, his alleged status as a non-sportsman, and the frequency and likely continuation of the wildlife check stations," the state says in court documents.

Tanner is seeking a minimum of $130,000 in damages, according to the lawsuit.

Officials with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game didn't immediately respond to inquiries from The Associated Press.

According to the agency's website, the first check station was set up in 1932.

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