DNR conservation officers catch up to speeding ATV operators

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009 at 5:37 am

(From Department of Natural Resources)

A Minnesota conservation officer proved that hide-and-seek is more than a children’s game – it can be a good way to catch lawbreakers.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Scott Staples of Carlton was on routine patrol July 4 when two ATVs raced down a paved road, rather than the ditch where they can legally ride. The ATV operators saw the officer’s patrol vehicle and hit the accelerators on their machines. With lights flashing, Staples tailed the ATVs until they pulled off onto a logging path.

For a moment, it looked like the riders had eluded the officer – but that was not the case. Staples shut off his truck and listened. “I could hear them go further and further back into the woods and then it became quiet. When that happened, I assumed they had hit a dead end.”

Deciding to hoof it, Staples raced a half-mile through the woods, battling heat, bugs and humidity as he followed the ATV tracks.

“When I got there, they started their ATVs and worked their way out of the woods toward the logging cut,” Staples said. “At the cut, I jumped out from behind a tree and arrested them.”

Instead of a $100 civil penalty for illegally operating on a road, the two riders are facing felony charges for fleeing an enforcement officer, punishable by up to three years in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

Fortunately, no one was injured during the chase. The riders would have faced stiffer penalties their action resulted in great bodily injury, the sentence is up to seven years imprisonment and/or a fine to $14,000.  Fleeing resulting in death is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine up to $20,000.

Common sense, courtesy and safety are the basis of Minnesota’s ATV regulations. Part of a conservation officer’s duty is to ensure public safety. To report ATV violations or to request assistance, contact the Minnesota State Patrol for the name and phone number of a conservation officer in your area.

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