Hi, I’m Richard Hayes, newest Independent Program Attorney with Texas LawShield®. As a former felony prosecutor, I worked closely with several game wardens and the Texas Department of Parks & Wildlife. After speaking with them and other folks, I saw there were some common re-occurring misconceptions that you need to know about. [Transcript below video.]
Game Wardens Are Police
First, game wardens are police. That means that they’re licensed peace officers in the State of Texas, and, arguably, they are some of the most powerful police in the state. They can inspect, search, seize, and arrest just like a regular police officer. And while most of the time they’re enforcing the Texas Parks & Wildlife Code, they have the full authority to enforce all other Texas criminal laws, including the penal code.
So, remember, when you’re dealing with a Texas game warden, you’re dealing with the police.
Game Wardens Have Broad Search Powers
Next, Texas game wardens have broad search powers.
We’re all aware of our Fourth Amendment, Constitutionally-guaranteed right against unreasonable search and seizure. But what does the Fourth Amendment mean when [you are] confronted by a Texas game warden? When can they search you or your property?
If a Texas game warden reasonably believes that you or someone else is engaged in a regulated activity, they can inspect any device used to hunt or collect a wildlife resource. Also, they can search any container or receptacle that is capable of concealing a wildlife resource or those devices. This includes vehicles, boats, game bags, freezers, coolers, or even something as small as an Altoids box that could contain a lure.
Game Wardens’ Jurisdictions?
But what about a Texas game warden’s jurisdiction? Well, just as wildlife go between city and county lines, so does the jurisdiction of a Texas game warden. Texas game wardens’ jurisdiction is statewide.
Also, they can go on to not only public, but also private, property to enforce game and wildlife laws. Texas game wardens are also one of the primary law-enforcement officers for enforcing boating laws in Texas. That means that they can board your vessel to make sure that your water-safety equipment is in compliance.
It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re engaged in hunting or fishing. What it comes down to is the wildlife code is complicated, and it can feel arbitrary at times. What that means is well-intentioned hunters and anglers sometimes find themselves on the wrong side of the law, as the saying goes.
The eyes of Texas are upon you, and Texas game wardens will go to great lengths to catch hunters and anglers who are hunting and fishing unlawfully.
Hunter Shield Protects Hunters and Anglers
Did you know that more than 16,000 violations are recorded by Texas game wardens every year? Mistakes in the woods and on water happen, and while unintentional, you could still be breaking the law.
If you have questions about year-round bird hunting regulations, Texas LawShield is here to help. Members of Texas LawShield’s HunterShield program have access to attorneys to get the answers they need concerning not only year-round game, but hunting and fishing laws in general. In addition, members are granted discounted entry to Sportsman Law Seminars. Seminars include access to former game wardens and attorneys who are also seasoned hunters. Add HunterShield to your existing Texas LawShield membership for only $2.95 per month.
Not a member of Texas LawShield? Join today to expand your education as a sportsman and ensure your hunting and fishing questions are answered by trustworthy sources who know the law.