By Eric Freedman
A federal judge has tossed out a suit accusing Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation officers of illegally arresting and prosecuting a hunter who admitted “shining” – using artificial light – for deer at a private Alpena County hunting camp.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Ludington found no grounds for Trent Sherman’s claims against the DNR, the officers and department officials.
Sherman’s lawyer, Racine Miller of Southfield, said her client will take the case to the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
According to Ludington’s decision, a DNR pilot saw a vehicle shining along a two-track road at the Fleco Camp in Green Township late one night in October 2015. Two DNR officers on “shining patrol” responded and found Sherman and a second man there.
The officers asked for identification and, because one of the men said they were checking their traps, the officers also asked to see their fur harvester licenses.
Sherman admitted they were shining deer and gave permission to search his vehicle, where an officer found a loaded pistol and ammunition in a case on the floor, the decision said.
An officer noticed a smell of alcohol and Sherman’s slurred speech, the decision said. He agreed to take field sobriety tests but refused a preliminary breath test. He was arrested and later blood tests showed his blood alcohol level was above the legal limit.
He was charged with using an artificial light with a weapon accessible, using an artificial light to spot animals and possessing a weapon under the influence of alcohol, the decision said. A judge dismissed two of the charges and the prosecution later dropped the third charge conditioned on Sherman not getting arrested for another offense in the following six months, according to court documents.
The companion wasn’t charged, DNR public affairs officer Ed Golder said.
Sherman’s federal court suit alleged unconstitutional search and seizure, malicious prosecution and conspiracy.
Ludington tossed out the case.
He ruled that the officers had sufficient grounds to make the arrest because Sherman “did not contest the fact that he admitted that he was shining’ and “granted consent to search his vehicle with the firearm inside,” coupled with the pilot’s “shining report” and Sherman’s slurred speech and “failed sobriety tests.”
Ludington also said the state has legal immunity under the U.S. Constitution from some of Sherman’s claims.