HARRISBURG- Governor Edward Rendell today signed legislation to bring the power of the Pennsylvania Game Commission to conduct stops and searches in line with the commonwealth's police officers. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania praised the governor for recognizing the flaws in the current law and for approving House Bill 181.
"Sportsmen do not give up their rights and aren't presumed to be criminals simply because they hunt and fish," said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.
Under current law, Game Commission officers can stop and search someone at any time and for no reason. HB 181, introduced by Rep. Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster County), requires that commission officers find reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred to stop a vehicle and to ask for identification. They will need to meet the stronger probable cause standard to conduct a search.
Hoover noted that the ACLU of Pennsylvania has received numerous complaints about stops and searches by commission officers.
"We've been aware of the flaws in the current code for some time," Hoover said. "At the ACLU, we prefer revising bad law through legislation and only resort to litigation when there is no other choice.
"In this case, the legislature and the governor understood that this needed to be fixed."
House Bill 181, now Act 64 of 2010, will go into effect in 60 days.