When charged with a Utah hunting crime, there are two items that always need to be covered. (1). Will my hunting and fishing rights be suspended or revoked and for how long? (2). Am I looking at jail or prison time?
Utah’s poaching and hunting crimes can carry serious jail, prison and fines. Southern and northern Utah are remarkable in beauty, fishing and hunting. Many out-of-state gamesmen come to Utah for our fishing and hunting splendor. If you are charged with a fishing/hunting/poaching crime in Utah while visiting from out-of-state, Utah wildlife crimes attorney Jake Gunter can help. Call (801) 373-6345.
The statute to know is the Utah Wildlife Resources Act, Utah Code Ann. 23-13-1 (2020). Here is the complete Utah Wildlife Resource Act. It outlines what conduct is illegal and how long your hunting and fishing license may be suspended for. Additionally, it establishes the Division of Wildlife Resources which enforces Utah hunting and fishing violations and creates the Wildlife Boards composed of selected individuals.
Here are some common Utah hunting and wildlife crimes.
Wanton destruction of wildlife crime in Utah is a catch-all criminal statute that names several different types of illegal wildlife activity. It could be poaching at night with a firearm, discarding killed wildlife carcasses, keeping wildlife in captivity, importing or exporting wildlife into Utah, taking too many animals in one season, regardless of how many licenses or tags you may possess.
Wanton destruction is commonly charged as a 3rd Degree Felony or a Class A Misdemeanor.
It’s illegal to do the following in Utah.
(a) take protected wildlife or its parts;
(b) collect, import, possess, transport, propagate, store, donate, transfer, or export protected wildlife or its parts;
(c) take, possess, sell, purchase, barter, donate, or trade protected wildlife or its parts without having previously procured the necessary licenses, permits, tags, stamps, certificates of registration, authorizations, and receipts required in this title or a rule, proclamation, or order of the Wildlife Board;
(d) take protected wildlife with any weapon, ammunition, implement, tool, device, or any part of any of these not specifically authorized in this title or a rule, proclamation, or order of the Wildlife Board;
(e) possess while in pursuit of protected wildlife any weapon, ammunition, implement, tool, device, or any part of any of these not specifically authorized in this title or a rule, proclamation, or order of the Wildlife Board;
(f) take protected wildlife using any method, means, process, or practice not specifically authorized in this title or a rule, proclamation, or order of the Wildlife Board;
(g) take protected wildlife outside the season dates, location boundaries, and daily time frames established in rule, proclamation, or order of the Wildlife Board;
(h) take protected wildlife in excess of the bag and possession limits established in rule, proclamation, or order of the Wildlife Board;
(i) take protected wildlife in an area closed to hunting, trapping, or fishing by rule, proclamation, or order of the Wildlife Board, or by executive order of the division director pursuant to Subsection 23-14-8(4);
(j) practice falconry or capture, possess, or use birds in falconry; (my favorite)
(k) take any wildlife from an airplane or any other airborne vehicle or device or any motorized terrestrial or aquatic vehicle, including snowmobiles and other recreational vehicles;
(l) hold in captivity at any time any live protected wildlife;
(m) use or permit a dog or other domestic or trained animal to take protected wildlife;
(n) remove, damage, or destroy an occupied nest of protected wildlife;
(o) release captured or captive wildlife into the wild;
(p) use spotlighting to take protected wildlife;
(q) employ or use a means of concealment or camouflage while taking protected wildlife which is prohibited in this title or a rule, proclamation, or order of the Wildlife Board;
(r) possess or use bait or other attractant to take protected wildlife which is prohibited in this title or a rule, proclamation, or order of the Wildlife Board;
(s) use any decoy or recorded or electronically amplified call which is prohibited in this title or a rule, proclamation, or order of the Wildlife Board to take protected wildlife;
(t) commercially harvest protected wildlife, including brine shrimp and brine shrimp eggs;
(u) utilize protected wildlife for commercial purposes or financial gain;
(v) enter, establish, or hold a contest or tournament involving the taking of protected wildlife;
(w) operate or participate in a commercial hunting area as described in Section 23-17-6; or
(x) operate or participate in a cooperative wildlife management unit as defined in Section 23-23-2.
You can legally do some of these items listed above, but you need the appropriate license issued from the Division of Wildlife Resources.
A person may not:
(1) shoot at, shoot, deface, damage, remove, or destroy any division signs or placards located in any part of this state; or
(2) damage, destroy, remove, or cause to be damaged, destroyed, or removed any equipment or devices owned, controlled, or operated by the Division of Wildlife Resources.
This is basically the classic trespassing on private property to hunt. It outlines how to get the landowner’s permission and penalties.
You can get your license or tag revoked for the rest of the season for violating this trespassing statute. If you do it twice in five years you can get your hunting privileges suspended for five years. It’s also a Class B Misdemeanor.
It is unlawful for any person to interfere with, intimidate or harass a conservation officer or special deputy in the lawful performance of his duty. It’s a Class B Misdemeanor and a bail schedule fine of $683. This is very similar law to interference with a peace officer in urban areas.
It is unlawful for any person to fail to stop at Division of Wildlife Resources road blocks or checking stations where a stop sign or red or blue light is displayed. It is a Class B Misdemeanor and a suggested bail at $360.
This Class B Misdemeanor is basically upon request, you must show your license, tag and the killed animal to a conservation officer. Also, they can temporarily detain you to make this inspection and request, which raises constitutional search and seizure issues that your Utah hunting and fishing crimes lawyer should investigate. It’s okay for the police or conservation officer to detain you, but only if it passes constitutional requirements.
The rule is that kids under 14 have to have their parents with them, or a responsible person over 21 years old. If a 16 year old is hunting big game, then they still need their parents or an approved person over 21 years old.
It’s a Class B Misdemeanor and a $640 fine.
(1) A person is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor who intentionally interferes with the right of a person licensed and legally hunting under Chapter 19, Licenses, Permits, and Tags to take wildlife by driving, harassing, or intentionally disturbing any species of wildlife for the purpose of disrupting a legal hunt, trapping, or predator control.
(2) Any directly affected person or the state may bring an action to recover civil damages resulting from a violation of Subsection (1) or a restraining order to prevent any future potential violation.
(3) This section does not apply to incidental interference with a hunt caused by lawful activities including ranching, mining, and recreation.
This law against interfering with a lawful hunt is clearly aimed at preventing animal rights social activists from delaying or obstructing lawful hunting and fishing activities.
(1) All participating states shall recognize the suspension of license privileges of a person by the participating state as though the violation resulting in the suspension:
(a) had occurred in their state; and
(b) could have been the basis of the suspension of license privileges in their state.
(2) Each participating state shall communicate suspension information to other participating states in the form and with the content as contained in the compact manual.
The Wildlife Violator Compact Act basically means that all participating states will honor a Utah wildlife license suspension. Example: Your big game license was suspended in Utah. You are a Colorado resident. Colorado will honor Utah’s suspension and equally suspend your Colorado hunting rights. Your home state has to be a member of the Wildlife Violator Compact for a reciprocal suspension to occur. Think of it as speeding tickets that you get while on vacation at Disney World in Florida coming back to interfere with your home state of Utah issued driving record. The fines, insurance hike and points from the Florida speeding ticket transfers to your Utah driving record.
If you owe $2,500 in child support, your hunting privileges can be suspended. In order to get your hunting and wildlife privileges back, you must (i) pay the child support arrearages in full, or (ii) comply for at least 12 consecutive months with a payment schedule where you make your monthly payments and a bit more towards your child support arrearages.
Division of Wildlife Resources will give you notice of their proposed agency action and you will have opportunity to defend, present evidence and have the right to testify.
If you fail to pay a speeding ticket, or fail to appear in court on a retail theft for example, your Utah hunting license privileges will be suspended until you remedy the situation. You can’t purchase a permit, tag, or license until you deal with the criminal charges. If you have a current warrant for your arrest, your hunting wildlife privileges will be suspended. If you failed to comply with a wildlife citation in another state that is a member of the Wildlife Violator Compact, they will also suspend your hunting wildlife DNR privileges here in Utah.
One way to check if you have a warrant is online at: https://secure.utah.gov/warrants/index.html. Or just Google “Utah warrants search” and the website will come up. You can also call the issuing court and get the details of your warrant and how to fix it.
If you obtain a wildlife permit by fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, you can be charged with a Class B Misdemeanor which carries up to six months in jail. Fraud-like convictions have particular collateral consequences when applying to housing, employment, and government positions.
It is unlawful to imitate or counterfeit any license, permit, tag, or certificate of registration for the purpose of defrauding the state of Utah or for evading the purposes and provisions of this code. Any person who violates any provision of this section is guilty of a Class A Misdemeanor.
Another fraud and counterfeiting provision in the Utah Wildlife Act. A Class A Misdemeanor is the highest Misdemeanor in Utah and carries up to one year in jail. Prison is not possible on Utah misdemeanors.
This is a big one. How long will my Utah hunting and fishing licenses get suspended or revoked for violating the Utah Wildlife Resources Act—Utah Code Ann. 23-1-101 et seq (2020)?
Here are the basic rules, subject to administration by the Utah Wildlife Board:
If you are convicted of a criminal offense listed in the Utah Wildlife Resource Act, the following licensing sanctions may apply:
(i) a felony conviction;
(ii) a plea of guilty or no contest to an offense punishable as a felony, which plea is held in abeyance pursuant to a plea in abeyance agreement; or
(iii) being charged with an offense punishable as a felony, the prosecution of which is suspended pursuant to a diversion agreement;
(i) a class A misdemeanor conviction;
(ii) a plea of guilty or no contest to an offense punishable as a class A misdemeanor, which plea is held in abeyance pursuant to a plea in abeyance agreement; or
(iii) being charged with an offense punishable as a class A misdemeanor, the prosecution of which is suspended pursuant to a diversion agreement;
(i) a class B misdemeanor conviction;
(ii) a plea of guilty or no contest to an offense punishable as a class B misdemeanor when the plea is held in abeyance according to a plea in abeyance agreement; or
(iii) being charged with an offense punishable as a class B misdemeanor, the prosecution of which is suspended pursuant to a diversion agreement; and
(i) a class C misdemeanor conviction;
(ii) a plea of guilty or no contest to an offense punishable as a class C misdemeanor, when the plea is held in abeyance according to a plea in abeyance agreement; or
(iii) being charged with an offense punishable as a class C misdemeanor, the prosecution of which is suspended according to a diversion agreement.
The hearing officer may double a suspension period if you are convicted again while serving a suspension period or you are involved in illegally taking “Trophy Animals.” Trophy animals have the following special definition under the Utah Wildlife Resources Act to mean:
(a) deer – a buck with an outside antler measurement of 24 inches or greater;
(b) elk – a bull with six points on at least one side;
(c) bighorn, desert, or rocky mountain sheep – a ram with a curl exceeding half curl;
(d) moose – a bull with at least one antler exceeding five inches in length;
(e) mountain goat – a male or female;
(f) pronghorn antelope – a buck with horns exceeding 14 inches; or
(g) bison – a bull.
All Utah DNR hunting and fishing wildlife license suspensions can run consecutively to each other, so long as the convictions are in different criminal episodes. Separate criminal episodes have a special definition under Utah law to mean distinct acts, separated by time or place, where the accomplishment of one act is concluded and another act begins.
Utah Code Ann. 76-1-402 (2020) defines “single criminal episode” to mean:
In this part unless the context requires a different definition, “single criminal episode” means all conduct which is closely related in time and is incident to an attempt or an accomplishment of a single criminal objective. Nothing in this part shall be construed to limit or modify the effect of Section 77-8a-1 in controlling the joinder of offenses and defendants in criminal proceedings.
WILDLIFE VIOLATIONS, POACHING, ILLEGAL HUNTING AND PLEAS IN ABEYANCE—Still counts.
The Utah Wildlife Resources Act doesn’t care if you take a diversion agreement or a first time offender program, such as a Plea in Abeyance on your Utah poaching charges. The Utah Wildlife Board will still treat that Plea in Abeyance as if it was a conviction. See this deep article on what Plea in Abeyances are and how they affect your criminal record.
UTAH ADMINSTRATIVE RULES FOR SUSPENDING YOUR HUNTING AND FISHING RIGHTS. Rule 657-2
As common, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has issued administrative rules governing how they can suspend or revoke your Utah hunting and fishing license. You can read the admin rules here: https://wildlife.utah.gov/r657-2.html.
Basically, you have a right to notice of the agency action against you. You have the right to have a private attorney representing you at your own expense. You have the right to present evidence and testify before any agency decision is made. All agency decisions are made based on the preponderance of the evidence. Which means the greater weight of the evidence, or 51 percent proof. Not beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest legal burden ever created or used in American law. Beyond a reasonable doubt is like going 99 yards on the football field.
You have the right to appeal the agency decision to a sitting District Court judge through the process called judicial review.
Administrative Rule 657-26 (2020) details how you can lose your hunting and fishing rights in Utah.
If you are tangled up in a Utah hunting and fishing crime, call wildlife crimes attorney Jake Gunter for a free consultation. Call (801) 373-6345. Don’t lose your Utah hunting and fishing license, don’t go to jail or have a felony on your record.