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  1. #1

    Question Forest Rangers and the Scope of the 4th Amendment

    My question involves criminal law for the state of: California.

    So my question pertains to the rights we have when encountering forest rangers on federal land. Are we free from unreasonable search and seizures from forest rangers?

    I understand the premise of the 4th amendment and have spent some time studying law but recently I had a friend go camping and long story short, while setting up his tent 2 forest rangers came by (which is normal, they will usually confront you and check for your permit) but the 2 rangers without having any probable cause to search his car began to open his truck and dig through his belongings and moving aside a couple sleeping bags and from under these bags they found some open alcohol and a case of illegal fireworks. I'm not trying to defend my friend in possessing contraband but what right did the forest rangers have to search his car without first having some sort of PC? The fireworks were not able to seen by plain view, they required the moving of other objects in order for the fireworks to be uncovered. So you can scratch plain view.

    I don't understand how this scenario would not be classified under the exclusionary rule and all evidence obtained from this search should be unable to used in court to prosecute my friend.

    Is there something I'm missing? Do forest rangers have more rights? Because it was federal land does that mean they have ability to search without reason? I understand they can walk through your camp site and "view" things, I also understand that law enforcement officers have a right to perform a "pat-down" for weapons to protect the life of the officer but I simply don't understand how they could execute a search without finding any PC.

    Thank you for any help you can give me!

  2. #2

    Default Re: Forest Rangers and the Scope of the 4th Amendment

    On federal or state lands where hunting or fishing is allowed, and where an officer has probable cause to believe that a person has engaged in such activities (ie fishing poles seen), they have very broad search capabilities, much broader than "typical" officers conducting a traffic or vessel stop. When officers can articulate reason to believe that either fish or wildlife may have been taken, then any portion of a vehicle or container which could reasonably hold contraband fish or wildlife will generally survive as a proper search. If the officers are NOT able to articulate that their search was related to a search for contraband take of fish/wildlife, and if they didn't have permission to conduct the search, then yes, moving to suppress the evidence seized from the vehicle on the basis of lack of probable cause would be a completely reasonable approach. Much will depend on what the officers are or are not able to articulate as being their PC.

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