Court sides with farmer in dispute with Game Commission
HARRISBURG — It wasn't the $150 fine that caused farmer Jack Coble to spend thousands of dollars fighting a summary offense filed against him by the Game Commission. It was the constitutional principle that protects against self-incrimination.
On Friday, after the county prosecutor's office threw in the towel and agreed with his constitutionality argument, a state appeals court dismissed the charge.
Coble had been convicted under a state law that requires people to truthfully answer game wardens' questions about a deer killing.
In his case, he had been accused of being evasive during a wildlife conservation officer's poaching investigation on his rural Perry County farm two years ago.
The prosecutor who handled the appeal said Monday the Fifth Amendment claim had merit.
“What's at issue is the fact that you're penalized for your silence, and as we all know, anyone accused of a crime has a constitutional right to remain silent,” said Daniel Stern, a Harrisburg lawyer who works for the Perry County district attorney's office. “And evidence of that silence is not evidence of guilt.”
“It's an infringement on my constitutional right,” Coble said. “I mean, a whole lot of my constitutional rights.”