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Florida Wildlife Law Violators Face Enhanced Penalties

August 24, 2006

Hunters and fishermen who repeatedly violate Florida’s fish and wildlife laws may find themselves becoming couch potatoes under a new law.

The change increases penalties for repeatedly violating saltwater or freshwater fishing and hunting laws. The law also increases the penalty for hunting or fishing with a suspended or revoked license, making it a criminal offense, increasing the fine and adding jail time and suspension of the license.

“The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) believes this new legislation will serve as an additional deterrent to those who violate wildlife laws,” said Capt. Curtis Brown of the FWC Division of Law Enforcement. “As our population continues to grow, these new laws will help protect Florida’s fish and wildlife for generations to come.”

The enhanced penalties resulted from a joint effort by Florida’s outdoor sportsmen who said people must begin to police themselves to preserve the state’s hunting and fishing heritage, Brown said.

“They truly should be commended for their work and support of this effort,” he said. Some of the major supporters of the legislation included the Allied Sportsmen’s Association, Florida Wildlife Federation, National Wild Turkey Federation, National Rifle Association, International Hunter Education Association, Quality Deer Management Association, Everglades Coordinating Council and Coastal Conservation Association.

The new legislation provides consistency among penalties for violating similar saltwater and freshwater fishing and hunting laws.

The new law classifies violations at four levels and includes increased penalties at each level for repeat violators. They are:

Level 1: Noncriminal violations that do not directly impact natural resources, such as hunting or fishing without a license, deer hunting without an orange vest and violations of wildlife management area rules.

First and subsequent convictions result in a $50 fine plus court costs, unless the person was convicted of having no license. In that case, he would have to pay the cost of a license, too. Any subsequent violations of having no license would result in a mandatory $100 fine plus the cost of a license.

Level 2: Criminal infractions that directly impact resources, such as exceeding bag limits, fishing or hunting during closed seasons, violating artificial reef requirements and illegally feeding wildlife.

First conviction, a second-degree misdemeanor, results in a fine of up to $500 and 60 days in jail.

Second conviction -- within Level 2 and within three years -- first-degree misdemeanor with penalties of a mandatory minimum fine of $250 and up to a year in jail.

Third conviction -- within five years and Level 2 or higher -- first-degree misdemeanor charge with a mandatory $500 fine, a year in jail and a mandatory one-year suspension of all FWC recreational licenses and permits.

Fourth and subsequent convictions -- within 10 years of Level 2 or higher -- same penalties as a second and third conviction, but adds a minimum mandatory fine of $750 and a three-year suspension of all FWC recreational licenses and permits.

Level 3: Criminal violations of fish and wildlife laws that directly impact resources. These are considered more serious violations than in Level 2, such as possession of commercial quantities of freshwater game fish, taking deer or turkey during a closed season or with use of a gun and light at night, possession of three fish in excess of daily bag limit of trout, snook or redfish, taking 1,000 pounds-plus of illegal finfish or 100-plus lobsters, stone crabs or blue crabs.

First conviction, a first-degree misdemeanor, results in a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail.

Second conviction – within 10 years and within Level 3 or higher – a first-degree misdemeanor and up to a year in jail with a $750 minimum mandatory fine and mandatory three-year suspension of all FWC recreational licenses and permits.

Level 4: The most serious criminal fish and wildlife law violations that directly impact natural resources, includes possession of a counterfeit license, molestation or theft of freshwater fishing gear or lobster, stone or blue crab traps, lines or buoys, or illegal sale of deer, turkey or marine fish that are illegally harvested.

First and subsequent convictions – third-degree felony – up to a $5,000 fine and five years in jail.

Hunting or fishing with a suspended or revoked license is a first-degree misdemeanor, up from a noncriminal infraction, which carried only a $50 fine, court costs and the cost of the license. Anyone convicted of violating the law now will face a mandatory $1,000 fine and 5-year suspension of all FWC recreational licenses, and could be sentenced up to a year in jail.


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