WyFB statement on court decision against Wyoming’s data trespass law
September 8, 2017
LARAMIE, Wyo. — On Thursday the 10th Circuit Court reversed the Wyoming District Court decision regarding Western Watershed Project's (WWP) challenge to Wyoming's data trespass law. The Court remanded the case back to the Wyoming District Court and held that section c of the law was a violation of the Constitution's first amendment rights of free speech.
"We are very disappointed and surprised by the ruling," stated Brett Moline, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation director of public and government affairs. "The Wyoming Farm Bureau supported the law change in hopes to strengthen private property rights in Wyoming."
"While we won't know yet what the ramifications are until the district court reviews the case again, it is a big disappointment the Circuit Court elevated free speech so much higher than property rights," Moline said.
According to WyFB, the court did not say trespassing is okay, but did say they didn't like the "differential" treatment given to one type of trespass over another.
"It is important to note this decision does not mean the statute is automatically unconstitutional," Moline said. "The 10th circuit only ruled that WWP's complaint should be reinstated and the district court should hear the merits of WWP's complaint."
The Wyoming Legislature spent two different sessions working on this legislation, beginning in 2015, to ensure property rights and free speech would be protected. WyFB supports protecting private property rights and feels the use of free speech does not give anyone the right to break the law and trespass on private property.
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Given today's technology, identifying property ownership is achievable. WyFB feels that determining property ownership and securing appropriate access permissions should be included in the process of data collection.
"The Wyoming Farm Bureau felt this law was a step in the right direction as it would raise the bar of integrity for the data submitted to the government by ensuring the data will not be accepted if it is illegally collected through trespassing across private lands," Moline said.
The case now goes back to the Wyoming District Court. "As the case has been remanded to the District Court, we will have to wait and see the outcome. Our hope is that private property rights will continue to be protected in Wyoming and that people cannot use free speech as a means to commit a crime of trespass," Moline said.