HARRISBURG- The Pennsylvania Senate Game and Fisheries Committee passed legislation today to protect the privacy rights of Pennsylvania's outdoor sportsmen. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania applauded the unanimous committee vote on House Bill 181.

Introduced by Rep. Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster County), HB 181 conforms the power of officers of the Pennsylvania Game Commission to conduct stops and searches with the commonwealth's police officers.

"Pennsylvania's sportsmen do not give up their constitutional rights simply because they hunt and fish," said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "Outdoorsmen have a right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures."

Under current law, Game Commission officers can conduct a stop and a search "at any time." HB 181 would require a finding of reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred before a commission officer could stop any means of transportation. The bill also requires a finding of probable cause that a crime has occurred before conducting a search of a vehicle or a person.

"The law today assumes that sportsmen are criminals and grants powers to Game Commission officers under that assumption," Hoover said. "HB 181 fixes a major hole in Pennsylvania law and does so through legislation, not a lawsuit."

HB 181 now heads to the Senate floor for consideration. The bill passed the state House of Representatives in June.