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DNR appeals judge's decision to dismiss poaching charges against Dawson man

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The Department of Natural Resources has appealed this week's court ruling that threw out deer poaching charges against a west central Minnesota man.

Lac Qui Parle County Attorney Richard Stulz filed papers with the Minnesota Court of Appeals on Friday asking the court to reverse a district court judge's decision to dismiss 13 counts that had been filed against Joshua Dwight Liebl, 38, of Dawson.

Liebl was facing gross-misdemeanor and misdemeanor counts of state fish and game violations. The charges were dismissed Monday when Judge Thomas Van Hon ruled that DNR agents violated Liebl's rights against "unreasonable search and seizure."

The judge noted that case law was clear that officers needed a search warrant to attach a GPS tracking device to Liebl's pickup truck. The ruling builds on a 2012 Supreme Court decision that clarified a citizen's right to privacy with the advent of new technology.

The investigation

According to the Star Tribune, the GPS device played a key role in Liebl's arrest in October 2014.

The officers obtained a tracking warrant, but no search warrant, before attaching the GPS to Liebl's truck on Sept. 24, 2014.

He was arrested nearly a month later and officers with the DNR also confiscated the head-and-shoulder mounts and racks of 37 dead deer along with 37 guns in the DNR's highest-profile deer poaching bust in years.

Van Hon's ruling noted that although a search warrant would probably have been granted based on the evidence at the time, the lack of one was enough to dismiss the charges against Liebl.

The newspaper notes that investigation and bust played a role in Gov. Mark Dayton's push for a new state law making some poaching crimes felonies.

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