December 7, 2018

The deer heads state conservation officers confiscated from a Carroll man last month are evidence in a criminal investigation and should not be given back to him, the Carroll County attorney argues in court documents.

Joshua Snyder has asked a judge to order the return of the deer heads — which were seized Nov. 19 amid allegations that Snyder had poached several of the animals — because he has not been officially accused of or convicted of hunting violations associated with the heads.

Snyder’s request is expected to be the first legal test of a change to Iowa law this year that was meant to codify the conditions under which hunters can recover confiscated items if they are exonerated of such violations.

The new law says the state shall not confiscate such property “unless the person from whom the property was seized is convicted of the violation.”

The new language was meant to supplement other parts of the law that call for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to return seized property within 30 days of a hunter being found not guilty of a violation, the dismissal of a violation or the expiration of the statute of limitations for the violation, but Snyder’s West Des Moines attorneys — William Kutmus and Trever Hook — argue it supplants them.

“It appears the (Department of Natural Resources) is either ignorant of the new statute or willfully blind to its existence,” the attorneys wrote in court documents filed Tuesday on behalf of Snyder.

The allegations against Snyder are unclear in court documents. He has not been charged with a crime.

Carroll County Attorney John Werden, the chief prosecutor of the county, said the deer heads were confiscated with a search warrant, court records show.

Snyder was stopped by conservation officers about 10:30 p.m. Nov. 18 on a rural road in Carroll County who were “demanding a confession that he unlawfully killed numerous deer,” according to the court documents.

Snyder’s request for the return of the deer heads claims he was physically abused by the officers.

His request argues that because Snyder didn’t confess to hunting violations and hasn’t been charged with or convicted of a hunting crime, the officers improperly confiscated four deer heads.

A receipt of the seizure that has been filed in district court lists three whitetail buck heads with 11-, 12- and 13-point racks. It’s unclear in public documents what the fourth head might be.

Werden, in his response to Snyder’s return request, says “the property is evidence in a pending investigation and is not subject to return at this time.”

He further says that the items were confiscated under a part of Iowa Code that is separate from the law change.

The issue is set for a court hearing on Dec. 21.

DNR officials have declined to comment because an investigation into Snyder is ongoing.