Defense challenges evidence in Minnesota deer-poaching case

Madison, Minn. (AP) — Evidence against a west-central Minnesota man accused of poaching deer should be thrown out because his constitutional rights were violated, a defense attorney said.

Attorney Bill Peterson contends in court papers filed last week that the Minnesota DNR didn’t properly seek a search warrant before attaching a GPS tracking device to Joshua Liebl’s pickup on Oct. 8, 2014.

Liebl’s Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches were violated as a result, Peterson said.

“The way they got the tracking order was not according to Minnesota law,” Peterson said. He said he thinks conservation officers “were just fishing.”

Liebl, 38, of Dawson, has not entered a plea yet. Charges filed against Liebl include gross misdemeanor use of an artificial light to take deer, hunting during prohibited time, gross misdemeanor trespassing, and two counts of failure to register deer.

Gov. Mark Dayton has cited the case as he renews his call for tougher penalties for the worst poachers. Dayton has said he plans to make another push during the upcoming legislative session for felony-level penalties for poachers who unlawfully take game or fish with a restitution value of $2,000 or more under state law. Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, has introduced a bill to that effect.

Less than two weeks after attaching the GPS gadget to Liebl’s pickup, DNR officers executed a search warrant and confiscated the racks and mounts of 37 dead deer from Liebl’s home. Thirty-seven guns also were confiscated.

Peterson contends all evidence against Liebl gathered after the tracking device order was approved should be thrown out.

Lac qui Parle County Attorney Rick Stulz maintains that Liebl’s rights were not violated. Stulz said he believes use of the tracking device will hold up.

Stulz has until mid-February to respond to Peterson’s filing. Judge Thomas Van Hon is expected to rule this spring on whether evidence gained from the tracking device is valid.

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