- New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr
. (I, D, WF-Sag Harbor), a 17 year member of the Assembly
Environmental Conservation Committee, has introduced State legislation that eliminates statutory warrantless seizures of fish or fishing gear as part of an enforcement action.
Thiele introduced the legislation in response to the plight of the Lester family from East Hampton Town. Paul and Kelly Lester were charged with operating an illegal clam stand and possession of fish in violation of State law this past July. They were found not guilty in East Hampton Justice Court this past October. They have now filed a demand for restitution with the State DEC. Their fish were confiscated without a warrant.
Under Thiele's legislation, State environmental law would no longer authorize blanket warrantless seizures of fish or fishing gear.
Thiele stated, "Under the current process, the DEC is the police, the prosecutor, the judge, and jury, all before the case ever gets to court.
There is no check on the authority of the DEC. Citizens are entitled to some due process of law under the Constitution. This legislation would not hinder prosecution of illegal activity, but would insure that the rights of fishermen are protected."