Angler said only SCDNR has authority to check fishing license
On July 1, 2021, Derrick Rowland of Myrtle Beach, S.C. was arrested by Myrtle Beach Police Dept. Officer S. Gulledge. The arrest report states two charges — 1) resisting arrest, and 2) unlawful fishing. But Gulledge said that’s not the whole story.
The angler stated on the Myrtle Beach Surf Fishing Crew Facebook group that he doesn’t think a city cop has the legal authority to check for a fishing license. That, Rowland states, is a task that only SCDNR law enforcement can perform. He believes that is the case based on South Carolina state law Title 50, Chapter 1, Section 5015 which says:
“For the purposes of this title unless the context clearly indicates otherwise…’Enforcement officer’ means an enforcement officer of the Natural Resources Division of the department.”
Section 50950 of that same law states that anglers must have their fishing license with them while fishing and that
“…the person shall produce the license, permit, tag, or stamp to a law enforcement officer upon demand.”
So, by Rowland’s interpretation, the “law enforcement officer” mentioned in Section 50950 must be an enforcement officer of SCDNR’s Natural Resources Division, as stated in Section 5015. Therefore, he believes he had no legal obligation to produce his fishing license to the Myrtle Beach Police Dept. officer. But the officer saw it differently.
In Rowland’s words, here’s how the scene played out on the beach in the 42 Ave. N. area:
“I was attempting to collect fin samples for the SCDNR S.A.F.E. program (I encourage everyone to check it out and volunteer if you can). There were two other anglers north of me a couple (of) blocks. MBPD beach patrol was heading south driving past those anglers and stops directly behind me. I pay him no attention as he jumps out of his truck and positions himself between my cart and the surf and it went like this:
Police officer: (demanding) Hand me your fishing license
Rowland: You’re a city cop
Police officer: How did you guess that
Rowland: (Ignoring him and continues to bait hooks looking at him)
Police officer: Fishing license (with hand out)
Rowland: Look man, I have a license, but I’m not giving it to you
Police officer: So it’s going to go that route
Rowland: You’re not SCDNR, you…
Police officer: (Rushes in on Rowland, grabbing his hands, tells him to put his hands behind his back)
Rowland: (startled by his lightning fast moves and giving no warning he was about to place me in handcuffs. Rowland turns very slightly) For what?
Police officer: (kicks Rowland’s leg out from under him, puts him face first in the sand while yelling) Stop resisting, stop resisting
Rowland: (calmly and thinking WTF is this dude jacked up on ) Dude I’m not resisting
Police Officer: (handcuffs Rowland and stands him up and says absolutely nothing until a second officer walks up 2 minutes later)
Rowland: I want to speak to your supervisor. Why am I being arrested (repeats this over and over for next few minutes, then starts pleading with him because his silence made me nervous)
Angler has contacted SCDNR about the Myrtle Beach case
After a short discussion, the two officers then take Rowland to jail, book him, and place him in a holding cell. He spoke to a supervisor 2 hours later, who stated he viewed the officer’s body camera. He told Rowland that the body camera footage showed he resisted arrest and that he saw nothing wrong with what the police officer did.
But Rowland disagrees. He also said he doesn’t believe a “resisting arrest” charge is lawful under the circumstances, since in his view, the police officer didn’t have the legal right to ask for his fishing license in the first place.
Rowland said he could have given in and showed the police officer his license. But he believes it would only further what he sees as a problem of city police officers overstepping their bounds.
“I realize that I could have given in and showed him my license, and the next time and the next tim. Or when they decide that fishing isn’t allowed in this area or that area. How about when they say piers only? I’ll give up that time and I’ll fight until I fall. Former founders of this country said we don’t have to tolerate this. I’m gonna stand proud, have some respect for what the constitution stands for and the hell with anyone who doesn’t feel me,” said Rowland.
The angler has contacted SCDNR’s legal department about the matter and said he hopes what comes out of it all is a clear definition of who can and can not legally check an angler’s fishing license.
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