ST. PAUL, MN – 03 May, 2016 – The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota (ACLU) has filed a petition to join the appeal on the dismissal of charges in a widely-reported GPS deer poaching case from Lac qui Parle County, Minnesota.

Last month District Judge Thomas Van Hon dismissed the 13 charges against Joshua Liebl of Dawson, Minnesota, for allegedly shooting two deer illegally.

The charges stemmed from GPS surveillance of a pickup truck owned by Liebl.  The judge, relying on a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision, ruled that the surveillance of Liebl’s vehicle was a search under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution for which DNR needed a search warrant. The Department did not obtain a search warrant.

The judge held that the evidence obtained as a result of the GPS surveillance must be suppressed which resulted in dismissal of DNR’s case.  DNR has since appealed the Judge’s decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

The ACLU has sought involvement as an “amicus curiae” or “friend of the court” to submit argument in support of the district court decision.

The ACLU wrote in its application to the Court of Appeals: “An amicus curiae brief is desirable because the issues raised by this case affect interests extending far beyond those of the parties to this action.”  It also said:  “…the outcome of this case will have a significant impact on the rights of other Minnesotans who may be the subject of warrantless GPS tracking.”

A GPS radio device had been attached to Liebl’s vehicle parked in his driveway at 3:00 o’clock in the morning on October 8, 2014, by a conservation officer crawling under the vehicle.  The truck’s travel in Minnesota and South Dakota was then monitored on a DNR computer for nearly two weeks after which it obtained a warrant and conducted a search of Liebl’s home and truck.

 “We are pleased that the ACLU has decided to become involved in the case,” said Bloomington Attorney Bill Peterson who represents Liebl.  “Their participation underscores the significance of the important constitutional issues involved.”

Peterson noted that the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and other law enforcement agencies have to apply for search warrants before they do GPS surveillance. “Why shouldn’t DNR have to do the same?” Peterson asked.

The briefs on the appeal by DNR, the defendant and the ACLU are due to be filed by July with a hearing before the Court of Appeals to follow those filings.  A decision is expected late this year.

“We believe that Judge Van Hon made the correct decision and that his decision will be affirmed by the Court of Appeals,” said Peterson.

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