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The Lacey Act, a Gross Imposition on Hunter’s Rights

The Lacey Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 3371–3378, in combination with maddeningly vague and complex local and state hunting regulations, unjustly impairs the rights of hunters, wildlife collectors, and new followers of the field to table movement. The most commonly charged provision of the Lacey Act, the wildlife trafficking provisions in 16 U.S.C. 3372(a)(1) and (a)(2).16 U.S.C. 3372(a)(1) and (a)(2) criminalizes the interstate transportation of wildlife harvested in violation of the laws of the jurisdiction where the wildlife was harvested. New York State has strict hunting regulations.

If you or someone you love has been accused of violating the Lacey Act or any other violation of hunting laws, you need experienced trial attorneys who have a strong track record of winning hard cases. If you have been charged with Lacey Act violations we may be able to get your charges reduced or dismissed. Call our New York wildlife trafficking attorneys today.

These violations can either be misdemeanors or felonies. The federal government can secure convictions for misdemeanors if another jurisdiction’s law was violated while harvesting the wildlife and the defendant knew or should have known that the law was violated. Felonies may be charged in the case that the violation was made with knowingly. Here, ignorance of the law may, in fact, mitigate the severity of the penalty from the Lacey Act somewhat.

Felony Lacey Act violations may incur prison terms of up to 5 years in prison and $25,000.00 dollars per violation. Although 5 years in prison and a 25,000.00 fine are rather light as far as punishments for federal felonies, Lacey Act violations may be charged independently for each time that unlawfully harvested wildlife crosses a state boundary. The following case illustrates how severely Lacey Act penalties can fly out of control.

Danny, a hunter licensed in New York, goes out for early bear season in early September. He hunts on the border of New York and New Jersey. Danny is always mindful of the border, however, since the state boundary is not exactly marked Danny relies on flags he hung himself based on what he believes the border to be. After many hours sitting silently in the tree stand a bear walks directly into Danny’s path and he fires his rifle. He strikes the bear, but, it takes off and runs through the bushes.

After waiting a safe time Danny tracks the bear’s blood trail. It is now twilight so his vision is obscured a bit due to the darkness. Danny turns on his head lamp and uses it to find the path to the bear. Once he finds his game Danny skins and quarters the bear so that he can pack it out. Danny looks at his compass and sees that he has walked due south from his tree stand. He continues north and further north to his truck.

On the way back to his truck Danny sees that, by mistake, he put his tree stand just over the state line in New Jersey, where the bear was shot and where Danny harvested it. It was a good size animal, and not wanting to forfeit the meat and hide Danny decided it would be reasonable to fudge his documents a little. He called in the bear to the NYS DEC game check hotline rather than let it waste in the field. Danny applies his tag to the bear’s ear, brings the hide to the taxidermist, and puts the rest of the meat in his freezer.

Soon, some of Danny’s friends in New Jersey hear about his great bear and want to see where he shot it, and they want some meat too. Danny travels across the border between New York and New Jersey at least 10 times to deliver meat to his friends and show them where he shot the bear. Danny posts about the bear on Facebook. One of Danny’s friends turns out to be a police informant. After seeing that Danny shot the bear in New Jersey and not New York, the friend tells his police handlers about the possible violation. Danny is arrested by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and charged with 10 felony counts of violating the Lacey Act.

Facing a maximum penalty of 50 years in prison and a $250,000.00 fine, Danny pleads guilty, is forced to sell his condo to pay the $25,000.00 fine, has to serve six months in jail, and becomes a felon which prohibits him from owning firearms for life.

Stories like these are the standard rather than the exception to rule when it comes to Lacey Act charges. Innocent mistakes about borders, complex out of state hunting laws, and huge fines all dovetail to brew a perfect storm of outrageous government overreach and severe penalties for harmless conduct. If you or someone you love has been accused of violating the Lacey Act you need experienced trial attorneys who confident in front of juries. If you have been charged with Lacey Act violations we may be able to get your charges reduced or dismissed. Call our New York hunting attorneys today.

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