Contributor: Adam Justinger
Many people travel to North Dakota for the great hunting and fishing opportunities. But do you know what the possible penalties are if you commit a game and fish violation? In North Dakota, game and fish violations are generally either an infraction or a misdemeanor. However, under a recently enacted statute, an individual can be charged with a felony game and fish violation in certain situations.
During the 2009 Legislative Session, the House introduced House Bill 1188 (HB 1188). HB 1188 was introduced to address the most egregious game and fish cases in North Dakota. The Bill enacted a provision called “Exploitation of Wildlife.” Based on the legislative history, this Bill was introduced because there have been situations in North Dakota where individuals commit hundreds of game and fish misdemeanor violations with minimal recourse. Because North Dakota did not have a game and fish felony provision, these cases would generally be sent to the US Fish and Wildlife Services to be prosecuted federally. Generally, federal cases take a substantial amount of time to go through the court system. As a result, the legislature wanted to enact a felony provision to expedite the process and keep these cases in North Dakota state court. As a result, HB 1188 passed the legislature and took effect on August 1, 2009.
Exploitation of Wildlife
The Exploitation of Wildlife statute can be found under North Dakota Century Code 20.1-01-33. An individual can be charged under this statute if they: 1) commit five or more A misdemeanor game and fish offenses within a two-year period; 2) commit seven or more misdemeanor game and fish offenses within a two-year period; 3) furnish assistance, management, or supervision to an individual who commits or assists in the commission of seven or more misdemeanor game and fish offenses within a two year period; or 4) commits a misdemeanor game and fish offense after having been previously convicted of seven or more misdemeanor game and fish offenses within a ten-year period. When determining the number of game and fish violations, convictions from other states or federal courts can be used as a conviction under the statute.
A violation of § 20.1-01-33 is a class C felony. Under North Dakota law, a class C felony is punishable by a maximum of five years imprisonment, a ten thousand dollar fine, or both. Not only does an individual face jail time and a hefty fine, but they will also lose their hunting, fishing, and trapping privileges. If an individual is convicted of Exploitation of Wildlife they could lose their hunting, trapping, and fishing privileges for life under N.D.C.C. § 20.1-01-26. In any event, an individual convicted under the Exploitation of Wildlife statute will lose their license for a minimum of five years.
Although the Exploitation of Wildlife statute was enacted in 2009, it is unclear how many individuals have been charged with this specific provision. The North Dakota Supreme Court heard a case in 2011, which involved an individual who unlawfully took seventeen deer. However, instead of charging the individual with a felony under the Exploitation of Wildlife statute, the prosecutor charged the individual with seventeen class A misdemeanor offenses. Although this individual was not charged under the Exploitation of Wildlife statute, he certainly could have been.
If you are facing a game and fish violation, whether an infraction, misdemeanor, or felony; it may be in your best interest to contact an attorney. For help with game and fish violations in North Dakota, please contact Adam Justinger at SW&L Attorneys in Fargo at 701-297-2890. For future articles relating to game and fish violations, check our blog.
This article is for informational purposes only.