CFWS Lt. says checkpoint is legal and useful

Photos by Charles James

Photos by Charles James

When deer season opened here on Saturday, the Department of Fish and Wildlife sent about a dozen additional wardens from places like Stockton and San Bernardino to the Eastern Sierra. On their way home Monday, the wardens staged a checkpoint south of Bishop to detect anyone who might have violated hunting or fishing laws.

The Lieutenant on scene, William Dailey, who is local, called the operation “the biggest bang for the buck”. Citizens who contacted Sierra Wave called it a waste of tax dollars and an invasion of privacy. Lieutenant Dailey said the wardens stopped and screened every southbound vehicle except semi-trucks – more than 2,000 of them. He said wardens asked the driver if they had been hunting or fishing. If they said yes, they were asked to go up to an area off the dfgcheckpointsignhighway where Lt. Dailey said wardens asked for consent to search the vehicle.

Wardens were looking for illegal game and over limits of fish. They also checked to make sure guns were not loaded. Dailey said this kind of operation “deters poaching.” He said, “One of these checkpoints does more good than 1,000 patrols. Word will travel.” Dailey said the Eastern Sierra does have problems with poaching and over limits.

To questions about the legality of searching vehicles without warrants, Lt. Dailey said there is case law and federal and state codes which allow such searches. Said Dailey, “We’re not looking for drugs or other things. We ask for consent to search and look for illegal game, over limits, and loaded guns.”

In an earlier press release, Fish and Wildlife said the checkpoint was conducted to “protect and conserve fish and wildlife, to encourage safety and sportsmanship by promoting voluntary compliance with laws, rules and regulations through education.” The release also said all anglers and hunters would be required to stop and submit to an inspection.


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67 Responses to CFWS Lt. says checkpoint is legal and useful

  1. Mark1971 September 23, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

    So why are they asking to search the vehicle if the press release says submission to the search is required and Lt. Dailey says state and federal codes allow it? If the driver says no, what happens?

    • Legal Eagle September 23, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

      You have the right to say no and continue on your way. They are on a “fishing expedition”.

    • dean September 24, 2013 at 9:01 am #

      More likely is you say “No” and then they suddenly notice something “new” and develop a “reasonable” suspicion to justify a search wherein they tear your vehicle apart, find nothing, and send you on your way 45 minutes later.

      • Mark September 24, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

        Or while searching they just happen to find a bag of cocaine which they just planted.

        “Eastern Sierra; the land of checkpoints”

  2. Richard September 23, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

    How much did this cost?
    Did they catch any criminals?

    • Benett Kessler September 23, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

      Fish and Wildlife is supposed to legally issue a press release on the results.
      We’ll be pushing for it.

      • jdd September 24, 2013 at 7:57 am #

        Why should you have to ‘push’ for it. If fish and game is ‘legally’ required to issue a press release, they wouldn’t do something illegal and not issue it, would they??

        • Benett Kessler September 24, 2013 at 9:36 am #

          We don’t think so, but Fish and Game does not have a good record at getting back to us.

  3. Charles O. Jones September 23, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

    This is hardly the assault on our Constitution that some would like us to believe.

    I hope they get the “bang for the buck” they were looking for. Because “bang for the buck” is seriously lacking in too many government programs.

    • Tourbillon September 23, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

      Yes, “bang for the buck”. Well, hassle enough innocent citizens on flimsy pretexts, and eventually you’ll get a small insignificant pop, if not a bang, for the money and the disgusting infringement on liberty.

      Any little bitty pop satisfies some, no matter what the cost. Right Chuck?

  4. Legal Eagle September 23, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

    Just say no!

  5. MK September 23, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

    So what happens if one refuses the search. Where is the probable cause?

    • Legal Eagle September 23, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

      They must have reasonable suspicion to detain you. If they ask you if you have been hunting or fishing, you can decline to answer, then ask if you are free to go. You are exercising your 5th amendment rights.

      If they ask to search your vehicle this means that they do not have probable cause to search. Simply say that you are not giving up your 4th amendment rights and that you do not give them permission to search your vehicle and ask them if you are free to go. If they say you are not free to go ask them if they are detaining you for not giving up your constitutional rights. If they say no, ask them what their reasonable suspicion or probable cause is for detaining you and ask to speak with their supervisor.

      Many Americans have died so for you can have these important rights. Don’t be so quick to give them up.

    • Fish and game code September 23, 2013 at 7:26 pm #

      As per Section 2012 in the California Fish and Game Code, hunters and fisherman are required by law to exhibit any and all game in possession and/or equipment used for or that can be used for fishing/hunting when demanded by a game warden. The way I read the law if someone says they have been hunting or fishing and a warden demands to see equipment and game taken that is all the probable cause needed because its unlawful to refuse after admitting you were fishing or hunting. This code is mentioned and explained on the first page after the table of contents in both the fishing and hunting regulation books so its not like its a secret.

      • Legal Eagle September 23, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

        Use your 5th amendment rights and decline to answer.

      • Mark September 25, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

        “its unlawful to refuse after admitting you were fishing or hunting.”

        so when you’re asked if you’ve been fishing or hunting and you reply; I’m sorry I don’t answer questions.

        What happens next?

        It really is becoming a police state

    • bobbyjoe September 23, 2013 at 8:39 pm #

      The probable cause in my case was a large empty ice chest in the back of our vehicle. We were on our way to Ridgecrest to visit family, pick up groceries and supplies. No guns, no fishing poles, no fish and no game. Scared my daughter and that was not cool.

      In my opinion…with all the Police activity in the past few months…you’d think they’d spend some time rounding up illegal immigrants, but I have not heard anything about that, what so ever!

      • Pedro September 23, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

        bbj, So, you told them you had not been hunting or fishing? Did you give consent to search? They make sure to point out they asked these questions, but not that they acted regardless of answers.

      • Legal Eagle September 23, 2013 at 11:00 pm #

        Having an ice chest in the back of your truck would not give them probable cause to search your ice chest or your vehicle since the vast majority of the time, an ice chest is used for a purpose other than storing game.

        If you gave them consent to search, thats on you. Exercise your constitutional rights or lose them.

  6. sean September 23, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

    I fully support checkouts related to public safety like looking for drunk or unlicensed drivers. But Looking for FISH?

    Come on – this is weak sauce.

    You can give the CDFW some of your thoughts here:

    or here if you want to be more formal about it:

    • Tourbillon September 23, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

      See ya Seanny as you slide down that slippery slope into oblivion. Accept checkpoints for something you call “good” and you’re gonna have to accept them for what others call “good”.

    • Pedro September 23, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

      Same sean, who said this about saturation patrol in Bridgeport bustin Burners?

      sean September 7, 2013 at 5:28 pm #
      “There is a difference between “profiling” and “racial profiling”. There is nothing wrong with “profiling”. Thats what cops do to catch crooks. “Profiling” on things other than race is not against any laws. You are profiled everywhere you go from a sporting event, to an airport, or even a bar or casino.”


      “You’re just upset because you ran into one in Bridgeport? You send out a complaint letter every time you see a checkpoint anywhere in LA?”

      If so, see ya on the playa brother, you don’t have to use drugs to be there or value your freedom.

      • Sean September 24, 2013 at 12:19 am #

        You don’t need to quote me. I know what I wrote.

        The difference is looking for drugs or drunks vs. Dead fish.

        How many dead fish got drunk and crashed head on into a mini van killing a family coming home from church?

        This checkpoint is a waste of resources. That’s my gripe.

        How many arrests were made? I will bet $20 bucks none were made. For the amount of money spent on this one checkpoint the CDFG could have mailed a informational flyer to every registered fisherman and hunter in the state. So I don’t think the educational value argument is valid either.

        Pedro – as usual I have no idea what you are trying to say.

        • sugar magnolia September 24, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

          no difference brother. In fact, I’m pretty sure the F&G one is legal, due to hunting license laws, while the burners were wrongly profiled. Again, I’m sure this point isn’t above your intelligence level, they were not pulling over drivers suspected of being under the influence.

          No-one has a problem with LEO doing that. they were pulling over people just in hopes of finding them carrying something. That my friend, is an infringement everything america stands for.

          I’ll be the conservative here and stand up for american’s rights. Some has to be the conservative apparently.

        • Pedro September 24, 2013 at 10:49 pm #

          Sean, you support checkpoints to enforce laws that you think are important, and tell a person that writes SW to complain they feel treated unfairly and rudely to just suck it up and you don’t need them around.

          Then you get upset about a checkpoint that you don’t like,downplay it with imaginary stories of dead drunk fish, and ask people to write complaint letters. Double Standard.

          I don’t care about most trout, but I do care about poaching of dear, elk, bear, antelope bighorn sheep etc. I don’t want a bunch of yahoo lawbreakers with guns screwing it up for responsible hunters, while putting my safety and wildlife at risk.

          So read Tourbillon’s post above. Then look into poaching’s tie with organized crime around the world, including bear gallbladder here, and stop thinking only the laws and rights you like are important.

          I DON’T CONDONE CHECKPOINTS to enforce the laws, but you do. So suck it up, stop whining about writing letters, and wait politely to be searched.

    • Eastern Sierra Local September 25, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

      You can’t support DUI check points while simultaneously not support Fish and Game checkpoints….that’s contradictory.

      • sean September 25, 2013 at 7:06 pm #

        Dear Pedro and ESL -I am flattered you took the time to address me directly. I’m excited you are tracking all my blog posts. I actually can support whatever I want in any manner I want. My position is checkpoints related to public safety are OK and not a big deal. There is a huge difference between a checkpoint looking for dead animals vs. a checkpoint looking for drunks vs a checkpoint looking for bank robbers fleeing an area.

        Your opinions on what you think is contradictory in my posts on this blog are minimally interesting.

        I didn’t say this checkpoint was illegal or a violation of some misunderstood Constitutional Amendment. I said it was “weak sauce” and a waste of resources – which means a waste of money. Is the Dog Catcher doing dog license checkpoints next? How about firewood checkpoints on the 395?

        So back on point – HOW MANY arrests were made at this checkpoint?

        Pedro – doing a review of your posts is funny… I especially like this one “Topless female wardens would stop most objections to frisk searches from hunters.” Very constructive contribution!

        • Pedro September 26, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

          Sean, not tracking, just recalling previous conversation along this topic. We are a lot alike. Start with sarcastic one liners followed by over the top rhetoric and then maybe a clear argument for our opinion when pressed. We can probably spare others the pain of having to reread our posts. I did crack myself up with the topless one though. And I must compliment you for your $5 snack money comments. In my pretentious opinion I do believe I am better at this writing style, but I see you have potential.

          I must remember that we are all just semi-imaginary people here with a flawed means of communication. If we were to meet in person and have a conversation it would be much different. Scary thing (or beautiful) in a small town is when we meet at some BBQ we might actually recognize each other through our words. Good thing is that you and I actually give a crap about this world and that’s one thing I admire most.

          If you read all my posts, you’ll see I argued the checkpoints were misdirecting resources and are prone to trampling rights, not that they are illegal entirely. You will also see I made fun of last DFW checkpoint, and predicted Tax Board Checkpoints weeks ago. So either you are stealing my shtick, or agree with me more than you think.

      • Tom O. September 25, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

        I never realized thathunters and fisherman and non hunters and non fisherman were as dangerous as drunk drivers. Wow.

        • Pedro September 26, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

          Only when they’re driving or poaching drunk.

  7. Pedro September 23, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

    Did they search any vehicles without consent? Why were semis exempt?

    • Benett Kessler September 23, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

      I don’t know if they searched any vehicles without consent. Semis were exempt because of something like – their size and difficulties
      getting a lot of big vehicles in one area.

  8. Tom O. September 23, 2013 at 6:16 pm #

    If you are stopped,Refuse to answer questions if you are not a hunter, They will let you go. Oh ya, dont forget to film it!!! Complete waste of $$$ and an invasion of privacy.

    • bobbyjoe September 23, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

      Didn’t work in my case, tried to film with my Samsung phone and was told to stop.

      • Mark1971 September 23, 2013 at 10:11 pm #

        That’s just wrong. They can’t tell you to stop filming. There’s nothing illegal about it at all. I would contact somebody at Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and tell them about what happened and ask them if this agent was following official policy.

        • Mark September 24, 2013 at 11:51 am #

          They can ask you to stop taking video but the request carries no weight.

          Upon being requested to stop the video you politely tell them the video is for there protection as well as yours, and well within your rights.

      • Mark September 24, 2013 at 5:17 am #

        You should have maned up and said “no I will not stop filming”.

        Exercise your rights or lose them!

        • Legal Eagle September 25, 2013 at 10:35 am #

          Right on Mark! You have the right to film in a public place. There is no expectation of privacy at a public location.

          Know your rights and use them or lose them.

          • Pedro September 26, 2013 at 10:46 pm #

            I have done that when I was alone in the car and knew I could risk a few days in jail to sort it out without losing my job etc. I have also bit my tongue when I had family in the car and I didn’t want them to suffer. Maybe bobbyjoe did man up and do what he thought best for his daughter.

  9. Tim September 23, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

    Sierra Wave does a good job covering stories such as this one. Bennett, will you file a records request and find out how much money including overtime was spent? This seems very over zealous for such a small reward. This area is surely getting a reputation for stop and search. We need a good lawyer to put an end to this invasion of privacy.

  10. bassackwards September 23, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

    In the past few months the Eastern Sierras have definitely become a Police State, as legal as it may be. Regardless of the legality, it just doesn’t sit right with me as a local resident. I use to tell my friends and family in Southern California to come up and visit because it was more like a vacation for them as opposed to me driving down there and visiting them.

    Now a days the Eastern Sierras have such a bad reputation in Southern California that my friends and family want nothing to do with Mammoth. They have been harassed by the MLPD, they have been bummed out with Lift Ticket prices being so high and no good snow to show for it. They’re disappointed that the CEO of Mammoth was taking Secret Trips to visit Politicians in Sacramento and the list goes on and on.

    The good ole days of being a local have long since past. Now in order to accept it, we just put our heads down and deal with it…

  11. Roy September 23, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

    I have fished the Sierras since 1958 and since retirement in 1996 I fish over 100 days a year in the Sierras…I must admit I have never ever seen a Fish and Game checkpoint in my life. It will be interesting to see what the results are.

  12. Mark September 24, 2013 at 9:36 am #

    I would also refuse to accept any educational handouts just on principal that the check point is bs.

    which also makes me wonder if they’re printed in Spanish.

    Legal Eagle – you’ve made some great points. Thanks for sharing.

    • Legal Eagle September 24, 2013 at 9:22 pm #

      Great idea Mark on refusing to accept their handouts! It is a very good way to protest their checkpoint program.

      They set up these checkpoints because they are too lazy or incompetent to go out in the field and catch the ones who are actually breaking Fish and Game laws.

      • Legal Eagle September 26, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

        Here is an example of someone who knows his constitutional rights when confronted by the police. This would not fly in California where the law is different.

        • sugar magnolia September 27, 2013 at 8:59 am #

          if you pulled that here, you might get away with it at first blush…but then the harassment would start…ie. you’re gonna get pulled over right and left…I’ve seen it happen. They can find almost any reason to pull you over, your headlight/taillight looked dim (doesn’t have to be true, they’ll just say they thought it was), you veered from your lane, didn’t come to a complete stop..maybe longtime locals from good families could do it (of course they wouldn’t have been asked for their ID to begin with), but others cannot.

          For real people, this is what our LEO do around here. Don’t get on their bad side, which is a sad statement of how things are here.

  13. salblaster September 24, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

    maybe it will be on fish and games reality tv show. book em dano, that’s 1 fish to many, that’s fish homicide in the 1st degree.

  14. Mark September 25, 2013 at 9:15 am #

    “they were asked to go up to an area off the highway where Lt. Dailey said wardens asked for consent to search the vehicle.”

    and what if consent wasn’t given? Technically you should never give consent.

  15. Hans September 25, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

    Fish and Game checkpoints are common (and have been for decades) in many or most states during hunting season to make sure people aren’t poaching or bagging game they don’t have permits for. If you think it’s an evil plot you better avoid rural areas in most western and mid-western states. They are typically announced in advance.

    Here’s one way to learn that: google “fish and game checkpoints”. In the first two pages the results will clarify most of the questions or assumptions in this comment section–whether or not it’s a secret plot, why they do it, and legal precedents for searches etc.

    Here’s another way: travel.

    • Wayne Deja September 26, 2013 at 8:17 am #

      Hans….so true….If people think the one check-point outside of Bishop is bad,try going to Oregon on their opening day week-end of deer and elk season…see what it’s like….but it does have to be done showing respect to the drivers and the hunters and fishermen,and not looking and acting as some military operation going on….there lies the problem people have with it…IF the DFG agents are coming across as all high and mighty authority figures and coming across as bullies…it is a slippery-slope,but still think it’s a good idea to catch those coming up from down south thinking they can do as they please when they get to the Sierras’….like some are known to do.

      • Pedro September 26, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

        Wayne, Do you know of the action of Sheriff of El Dorado County suspending USFS LEO as deputies of state law in his county? Much as been made of it in the media lately as speaking to gun rights only. I read about it when it just happened and don’t think that is where the sheriff is coming from. He had some USFS LEOs operating under his authority that were bringing in many complaints of heavy handed, disrespectful treatment, but he had no authority to train, supervise, or discipline them. Because of a few, he had no choice but to let them all go, IMO.

        Good for him if he stuck up for his department’s reputation, county residents, and all of our rights. The right thing to do and good for reelection campaign also.

        • Reality Check September 26, 2013 at 6:49 pm #

          I believe that both the Inyo and Mono County Sheriffs took away the authorization of USFS LEOs to enforce state laws over a decade ago. Perhaps Benett could check up on that.

          The last I knew is that Game Wardens are not real peace officers and can only enforce Fish and Game laws. They also do not have any peace officer powers off duty.

          If I am wrong on any of this, please correct me.

          • wiseguy September 27, 2013 at 9:04 am #

            Reality Check,

            Hey next time you post something do some research on the subject. FnG are state law enforcement meaning, They can and do enforce all laws in this state. And USFS LEO’s do have powers to enforce in Inyo and Mono Co.

          • Wayne Deja September 27, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

            To “wiseguy’s” post below…..I think most fish and game officers know their boundries and don’t try to come across as these big LEO unless it has something to do with fish and game…..let’s hope so anyway….If I were speeding at night on HWY 395,which I rarely do,and happened to get lit-up by a F and G officer driving one of those green trucks,there’s a good chance I wouldn’t trust this attempted highway stop,and probably continue on untill I was in a well lit area where other people were around…and then,if I was told I was getting a ticket,I’d refuse to sign it unless there was a CHP officer or an Inyo County Sheriff present before I did…but it’s really a mute point saying that,because F and S officers don’t really try to come across as CHP or Sheriffs enforcing traffic laws anyway……maybe they can,but they don’t.

          • Reality Check September 27, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

            (e) Employees of the Department of Fish and Game designated by the
            director, provided that the primary duty of those peace officers
            shall be the enforcement of the law as set forth in Section 856 of
            the Fish and Game Code.

  16. Trouble September 26, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

    I think our founding fathers would go nuts if they knew people were being stopped and questioned without probable cause.

    • group think and rights September 26, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

      I think those same founding fathers would go nuts if they knew people of the same sex who express love for each other were having their rights stripped from them by some groups in our society, and the same goes for the demonization of a woman’s reproductive rights by that same group.

      • Trouble September 26, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

        I think our founding fathers would have stood up our rights.

        • Pedro September 26, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

          Remember our founding fathers established rights for free white male landowners. They and us have had to improve it over time.

      • Clean up your own act first September 27, 2013 at 8:59 am #

        There are (sadly) some amongst us who have a difficult time minding their own business.

        • Different Strokes September 27, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

          “What some people do might seem peculiar to us, but it does not seem peculiar to them.”

          – Atticus Finch, from “To Kill A Mockingbird”

  17. Mark September 26, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    Checkpoints may be common practice by various agencies. However these checkpoints to not remove our constitutional rights.

    DFW can ask what ever they want at their checkpoints. We do not have to answer any of their questions.

    If I was asked if I was fishing or hunting I would probably answer truthfully anyway, then proceed to exercise my 1st amendment right and tell them what I think of their checkpoint.

    Youtube Immigration checkpoints and watch how these officers push their authority and down right hassle anyone who exercises their constitutional rights.

    The entire immigration checkpoint this is rather stupid when they just ask people if they are an american citizen or not. If they really wanted to apprehend illegal aliens they should put their checkpoints up at the entrance to Home Depot.

    Eastern Sierra; land of the checkpoints

  18. Bishop Local September 28, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

    Our tax dollars at work!

  19. Wayne Deja September 28, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

    Bishop Local..EXACTLY !!!…. I don’t mind them spending tax dollars to deter those that come up here breaking the law and poaching wildlife and going over the legal limit while fishing…

    • Mark September 30, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

      while fishing for an invasive species that is the foundation of the entire areas economy.. boy did the Eastern Sierra go down the path of a completely subsidized economy.

      all the bs has completely turned me off of fishing. I’d rather go ride my dirtbike.

  20. Annoymous September 29, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

    First Ca Fish and wildlife officers are fully appointed peace officers under PC 832.2…. Meaning they enforce all state laws… Including drugs and traffic issues.. But they specialize in fish and game law… Wich cover pollution, pet trade, hunting, fishing, trapping, and commercial fishing. They have the legal authority to do these check points… But what you all fail to recognize is that hunt g and fishing is Inyo and Mono counties bank account… The people that come here to hunt and fish bring money into the counties… If there are no fish and or game there would be no people up here spending money in our local communities. Oh yeah they also work illegal marijuana grows that cause more damage to fish and wild life tha. Anything…

  21. Mark September 30, 2013 at 9:35 am #

    Saw lots of Deer hunters this weekend but not a single DFW officer

    I’m sure we scared all the Deer away with our loud dirtbikes.


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