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07/25/2024 02:57 AM
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House of Representatives
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: March 26, 2024 02:21 PM
From: Representative Stephenie Scialabba
To: All House members
Subject: Protecting Farmers, Sportsmen's Clubs, Private Land & Property
The Commonwealth Court recently ruled that the government - namely game wardens - have "unfettered discretion" to enter private property and conduct surveillance without a warrant. The justification for the Court's opinion stems from the legal doctrine of "open fields." 

In so ruling, the Court relied, in part, on the absence of "land" in Section 8 of the PA Constitution. Section 8 provides that "The people shall be secure in their persons, houses, papers and possessions from unreasonable searches and seizures, and no warrant to search any place or to seize any person or things shall issue without describing them as nearly as may be, nor without probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation subscribed to by the affiant." The Court noted that because Section 8 does not specifically mention "land," and because land is neither a "possession" nor a "house," it is not protected from warrantless searches. 

This case sets a precedent not only for game wardens, but potentially any government actor, to venture onto private land to conduct fishing expeditions - think of not only the sportsmen, but the farmers selling their product. It has implications for incursions onto the liberty of every citizen. 

I am proposing a constitutional amendment to Section 8 of the PA Constitution to expressly reference "land" as being protected from warrantless searches and seizures. Please consider co-sponsoring this important piece of legislation.

Introduced as HB2242