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Tanner v. Moore

United States District Court, D. Idaho

October 3, 2019

STEVE TANNER Petitioner,
v.
IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME DIRECTOR VIRGIL MOORE, LUCAS SWANSON, JOSH STANLEY, BRIAN JOHNSON; and WILLIE COWELL Respondent.

          ORDER

          David C. Nye Chief U.S. District Court Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Steve Tanner's Motion for Preliminary Injunction. Dkt. 30. Having reviewed the record and briefs, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding further delay, and because the Court finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, the Court will decide the Motion without oral argument. Dist. Idaho Loc. Civ. R. 7.1(d)(1)(B).

         II. BACKGROUND

         Idaho Fish and Game (“IFG”), a government agency, utilizes wildlife check stations to manage Idaho's wildlife resources. At these wildlife check stations IFG officers stop all vehicles passing through and inquire if the driver and/or passengers have been hunting, fishing, or trapping. If the answer is no, the officers ask no further questions and the vehicle proceeds on its way. These stops are rarely longer than a few seconds. If the answer is yes, the officers spend a few minutes collecting data, receiving public input, and, if necessary, enforcing state laws that pertain to the management and conservation of wildlife resources.

         In the early evening of November 18, 2017, Tanner was traveling southbound on Meadow Creek Road, located in Boundary County. At that time, Defendants Lucas Swanson, Josh Stanley, and Brian Johnson, employees of IFG, were operating a wildlife check station on Meadow Creek Road. As Tanner arrived at this station, he proceeded around it without stopping. Defendants Swanson and Stanley pursued Tanner in their patrol vehicle and arrested him for failing to stop at the check station.

         Tanner originally filed suit on September 24, 2018, in Idaho state court. On October 17, 2018, defendant Willie Cowell removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1441(b), and 1446(b).

         Tanner now seeks a preliminary injunction enjoining the IFG from utilizing wildlife check stations during the pendency of this litigation.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Plaintiffs seeking a preliminary injunction must establish that: (1) they are likely to succeed on the merits; (2) they are likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief; (3) the balance of equities tips in their favor; and (4) an injunction is in the public interest. Short v. Brown, 893 F.3d 671, 675 (9th Cir. 2018) (internal citations omitted). The basic function of a preliminary injunction is to “preserve the status quo ante litem pending a determination of the action on the merits.” Los Angeles Mem'l Coliseum Comm'n v. Nat'l Football League, 634 F.2d 1197, 1200 (9th Cir. 1980). A preliminary injunction should not be granted unless the movant, by a clear showing, carries the burden of persuasion.” Towery v. Brewer, 672 F.3d 650, 657 (9th Cir. 2012) (citing Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972 (1997)). The Court will address each of the necessary elements for a preliminary injunction in turn.

         IV. ANALYSIS

         In relevant part, Idaho Code § 36-1201 (“§ 1201”) states that “[n]o fisherman, hunter or trapper shall refuse or fail to . . . [s]top and report at a wildlife check station encountered on his route of travel when directed to do so by personnel on duty.” Idaho Code § 36-1201. Tanner challenges § 1201's constitutionality, contesting that, as applied, § 1201 violates the Fourth Amendment and its state counterpart-Article I, Section 17 of the Idaho Constitution. Tanner argues that the plain language of § 1201 does not give IFG authority to stop citizens such as himself who are not fishermen, hunters, or trappers. As such, he believes that an unreasonable seizure occurs whenever IFG stops one of these “non-sportsmen” citizens at a wildlife check station.

         1. Likelihood of Success on the Merits

          “The Fourth Amendment applies to all seizures of the person, including seizures that involve only a brief detention short of traditional arrest.” United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873, 878 (1975). “[S]topping an automobile and detaining its occupants constitute a ‘seizure' within the meaning of [the Fourth] Amendment[], even though the purpose of the stop is limited and the resulting detention quite brief.” Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 654 (1979). Thus, checkpoint station stops, such as the wildlife check station here, constitute a seizure under the Fourth Amendment.

         However, not every seizure violates the Fourth Amendment: only unreasonable seizures do so. “There is a two-step analysis applicable to Fourth Amendment checkpoint cases. First, the court must determine whether the primary purpose of the checkpoint was to advance the general interest in crime control. If so, then the stop is . . . per se invalid.” United States v. Fraire, 575 F.3d 929, 932 (9th Cir. 2009).

         Here, the primary purpose of the wildlife check stations is likely not crime control.[1]In a policy statement, IFG states the purpose of the wildlife check stations is to “effectively manage the state's wildlife resources” by making field contacts with sportsmen, collecting biological and harvest data to support wildlife management plans, receiving public input, and enforcing state laws and rules. Dkt. 30-2, at 1. Though the wildlife check stations may certainly lead to enforcement of criminal statutes, “the use of law enforcement techniques does not automatically transform [them] into a crime control device for Fourth Amendment purposes.” Fraire, 575 F.3d at 932. There is compelling legal authority that the primary purpose of these wildlife check stations is narrowly focused to advance the public's interest in wildlife preservation ...


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