Dear Hammurabi of the Highways: I saw an article in the paper about an Arkansas Game and Fish officer who pulled a man over for speeding in excess of 100 mph on Interstate 40. My reading of the Game and Fish Commission code book doesn't show that wildlife officers have this authority. Can you explain? -- Befuddled
Dear Befuddled: When confused, we always go to people like Keith Stephens, whose job at the Game and Fish Commission is to patiently explain things to folks like us. It should be noted The Mahatma's only real connection to fish is a cane pole, and to game it's a bright orange hunter's safety tie that a whimsical offspring wore to high school.
The incident happened in September, when a Game and Fish officer was on Interstate 40. It was reported that a vehicle moving at more than 100 mph passed the officer and was weaving through traffic. The officer caught up to the vehicle after several miles, and the driver was charged with reckless driving and possession of methamphetamine. Speaking for responsible drivers everywhere, good thing the Game and Fish officer was there at this moment of great danger.
Ah, but the question is whether the officer had the authority to be, well, an officer of the law, and to enforce laws other than those on hunting and fishing.
Stephens said wildlife officers are certified law enforcement officers and have a legal duty to enforce public-safety laws when they see a violation. While wildlife officers don't have radar in their vehicles, they certainly can judge when a vehicle is egregiously speeding, and can testify in court that a vehicle was driven in a dangerous or reckless manner, he said.
To support the point, Stephens sent along the relevant statute and an attorney general's opinion from 2006.
The statute, for those who want to dash headlong to the law library, is Arkansas Code Annotated 16-81-106, "Authority to arrest."
The statute says arrests may be made by certified law enforcement officers, and wildlife officers are specifically included in the list of those who are authorized to make an arrest. A further reading -- remember our law degree comes from the back of a box of Lucky Charms -- suggests wildlife officers have the authority generally to make an arrest when life and limb are in danger.
Some dude hauling down I-40 at 100 mph strikes this court as a danger to life and limb.
Now to the 2006 opinion of the office of Attorney General Mike Beebe.
We have read this opinion with the help of strong coffee. The opinion makes reference to the statute above, and concludes: "The legislative history of this provision indicates its intention to grant general arrest powers to wildlife officers. That is, it grants those officers the power to make arrests for offenses other than violation of game and fish laws."
Everyone understand? There will be a quiz on this next week.
Vanity plate: BETRHAF
Metro on 11/25/2017
Print Headline: Wild driver fair game for officer