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.