Although the system of “checks and balances” that make up this nation’s various governmental bodies more commonly looks like a circlejerk, sometimes a judge displays some good, excuse the pun, judgement:
A west-central Minnesota judge has tossed out the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ highest-profile deer-poaching bust in recent memory, saying a GPS device that conservation officers attached to the suspect’s pickup was illegal.
Van Hon said in his ruling that had the DNR asked for a search warrant to place the tracking device on Liebl’s truck, the request probably would have been granted.
“Although the [tracking order] application provided sufficient basis for finding probable cause to issue a warrant, no finding of probable cause was requested or made,” Van Hon wrote in his decision. He added:
“The court cannot retroactively transform what is not a warrant into a warrant. The tracking order is not the equivalent of a warrant. … In the present case there was ample information to support a finding of probable cause for a warrant to issue for the GPS device.”
This cases falls under that legal category loathed by so many prosecutors: a technicality. In this case the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), according to the judge, likely had enough evidence get get a warrant. But the agency didn’t get a warrant so the judge threw the case out instead of bending the rules to favor his employer, the State.
So much of what people, especially law enforcers and prosecutors, see as bureaucratic red tape is often the only thing standing between a prosecutor desperate to get a guilty plea and an innocent person. Sometimes that red tape lets a guilty person walk free but, as William Blackstone once said, “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”
It’ll be interesting to see if the DNS chooses to appeal this case and, if so, whether the next judge will “transform what is not a warrant into a warrant.”