Utah diligently pursues criminal charges against wildlife poachers, and in many cases, so does the federal government.
Wildlife violations can result in everything from losing your hunting or fishing license to a third-degree felony.
Wildlife Poaching Is Rampant in Utah
Utah state game wardens report more than 1,000 wildlife poaching incidents each year. But these are just the ones they’re aware of. They believe that many more instances occur each year but are never reported.
Deer and elk are the most commonly poached wildlife. Usually the poachers remove the antlers and leave the carcass behind. Other animals commonly poached in Utah include moose, bear, buffalo, bald and golden eagles, pelicans and desert tortoises.
In an attempt to reduce this growing problem, Utah has taken a stronger stance against poaching.
Potential Criminal Charges for Poaching and Hunting Violations
Criminal charges associated with poaching include the following offenses:
- Wanton destruction of protected wildlife
- Taking, transporting, selling or purchasing protected wildlife
- Entry on private land while hunting or fishing
- Taking protected wildlife while trespassing
- Interference with hunting
Although other potential violations are covered in the statutes, these are the most commonly associated with criminal charges and conviction.
Most violations qualify as Class-B misdemeanors (up to $1,000 in fines and six months in jail) or Class-A misdemeanors (up to $2,500 in fines and one year in jail). The wanton destruction of protected wildlife, however, can carry third-degree felony charges, with fines as much as $5,000 and up to five years in prison.
If you are convicted, you may also be ordered to pay restitution of up to $30,000 to the Help Stop Poaching Fund.
How to Avoid Poaching and Criminal Charges
Because wildlife poaching is difficult for authorities to discover without help, Utah has established the Utah Turn in a Poacher (UTiP) hotline for witnesses to report such incidents. The Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) offers a $1,000 reward for tips that lead to prosecution. In some cases, sportspersons groups contribute additional bounty, up to $5,000.
It’s safe to say that if you violate poaching statutes and someone knows about it, you may be reported.
Unfortunately, many upstanding hunters make mistakes and often do not realize they are breaking the law. The next thing you know, DWR officers appear on the scene — or later, at your door — and inform you that you face criminal charges in Utah, and perhaps even federal charges as well.
The experienced criminal defense attorney of the Law Offices of David Paul White & Associates strongly recommend that you refuse to talk with officers without a lawyer. These charges carry potentially serious penalties, and unfortunately, it’s easy to incriminate yourself inadvertently.
With convenient locations in Salt Lake City, Murray and St. George, we assist clients throughout Utah. Contact us today if you have been charged with poaching, or to discuss any type of criminal charges you may face.