GOA Goes to Court to Protect Tennessee Hunters Against Unreasonable Searches and Seizures
Many Tennessee residents are aware of a recent court case involving Wildlife Officers with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) entering properties without standard warrants. The practice of obtaining a warrant is commonly required in America to properly authorize non-consensual entry onto private property.
The case that has brought the most attention to this issue involves properties owned by Mr. Hunter Hollingsworth. Additionally, Mr. Terry Rainwaters lives on (and helps farm) the properties owned by Mr. Hollingsworth.
Essentially, Hollingsworth and Rainwaters asserted in Tennessee Court that TWRA agents conducted searches for evidence, placed remote surveillance cameras to assist with evidence gathering, damaged Hollingworth’s property, and seized property from Hollingsworth on several occasions without consent or a warrant for law enforcement purposes.
In fact, court findings indicate that TWRA policy does not even require supervisory permission to enter land without consent or a warrant. Further, TWRA officers are not required to create any record of having been on private land and typically do not inform landowners of their entry.
Hollingsworth and Rainwaters’ original complaint against TWRA was upheld when a three-judge panel — convened under a 2021 state law requiring a judge from each of Tennessee’s three grand divisions to hear challenges to state law — concluded that Tennessee’s Constitution grants even more protection against unlawful searches and seizures than the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
According to the Judges, Article 1, Section 7 of the Tennessee State Constitution provides citizens a “broader guarantee of security for an individual’s real property than its federal counterpart.” The Judges cited Tennessee Supreme Court precedent that found only “wild or waste lands” that is not farmed, fenced, or inhabited are excluded from those protections.
The panel also concluded that the Tennessee law providing TWRA the right to enter private property resulted in a “general warrant.” The court ruled, “general warrants are dangerous to liberty and ought not to be granted.”
Following this ruling and win for the rights and liberties of Tennesseeans, TWRA appealed to the Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Western Division at Jackson. Essentially, TWRA wishes to continue the practice of warrantless searches and seizures.
In response to TWRA’s appeal, GOA filed an Amicus Brief (Friend of the Court) supporting Hollingsworth and Rainwaters on February 14, 2023.
GOA’s Court Brief claims that the policies and actions of TWRA violate both the Tennessee Constitution and the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. As most of you know, our precious Fourth Amendment protects citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government!
This case is a critical one in our country because the practice of warrantless searches and seizures is a slippery slope that violates Constitutional Rights and leads to loss of freedoms and liberties that are paramount to our American Republic.
GOA became involved in this case because we are committed to standing up for the traditional Second Amendment Rights of all Americans as well as other Constitutional Rights of citizens, landowners, and hunters! When the government is able to violate any of our Rights, it puts all of our other Rights at risk!
As this case makes it way through the Tennessee Appeals Court process, GOA will keep you informed, so be on the lookout for more from GOA in the coming weeks and months as we continue to fight to protect Constitutional Rights in the Volunteer State!
P.S. Please be watching for updates about Second Amendment and Constitutional issues in the coming weeks and months, and be on the lookout for information about other GOA efforts that will protect and/or advance our Rights!