Within the last year, Missouri laws on poaching and illegally possessing wildlife were strengthened. Section 252.042 RSMo., now requires fines for poaching and illegally possessing as follows:
(1) Not less than five hundred dollars and not more than one thousand dollars for each wild turkey;
(2) Not less than five hundred dollars and not more than one thousand dollars for each paddlefish;
(3) Not less than one thousand dollars and not more than five thousand dollars for each antlered white-tailed deer, excluding does; and
(4) Not less than ten thousand dollars and not more than fifteen thousand dollars for each black bear or elk.
The penalty provisions were strengthened in part because lawmakers realized it was cheaper for people from out of state to poach Missouri animals and face a low fine than to buy an out-of-state license. Monies from the fines go to the state’s school fund and are in addition to other fines and court costs that may be assessed.
The desire to protect Missouri wildlife, however, does not give the Department of Conservation unlimited power. Recently, the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, overturned a judgment finding a 15 year old in violation of Missouri law for “illegally possessing a deer” pursuant to Section 252.040, RSMo., when he “attempted to load the deer in a Blue Chevrolet Blazer.” In this case, a conservation agent with the Missouri Department of Conservation, was patrolling about 5:30 p.m., when an individual reported that someone might be shooting deer from the roadway. The agent found a blue Chevrolet Blazer 50 to 60 yards into a corn field that had just been cut. Further, the agent observed three individuals trying to load a deer into the back of the Chevrolet.
The 15 year old was one of these individuals. When the agent began to yell at the individuals, they dropped the deer and got back inside the Chevrolet. The conservation agent activated his emergency lights and sirens and ordered them to stop. A pursuit followed. The 15 year old was not driving the Chevrolet. Of the other two individuals, one later pleaded guilty and admitted he was driving the Chevrolet and the other later pleaded guilty and admitted he shot the deer. The deer had been shot one time. It was not tagged at the time the conservation agents arrived.
The juvenile court found that the 15 year old committed the class A misdemeanor of illegally possessing a deer by attempting to load the deer in a blue Chevrolet Blazer. Allegedly, the deer was not tagged or Telechecked at the time of the incident. The Court found that the deer only had to be tagged if it was not in the personal presence of the shooter and that it could be Telechecked at any time before 10:00 p.m. on the day it was shot. The juvenile office argued that since the 15 year old was not the shooter and the deer had not been reported through the Telecheck system, he should not have attempted to help put the deer in the Chevrolet.
The Court found that argument to be unpersuasive. The Court said “Under the Juvenile Office’s theory, if a group of hunters go out together in a place without cell-phone service and one of them shoots a deer and is unable to use the Telecheck system at that time the rest of the group must stand by and watch the sole shooter try to load a deer into a vehicle completely alone without assistance.” The Court found this argument to be absurd and that there was insufficient proof that the juvenile broke the law. The juvenile conviction was overturned as a result.
Reciprocity with Other States
Conservation charges don’t just deal with poaching or illegally possessing an animal. They may involve several different types of offenses related to hunting, fishing, boating, and recreational vehicles. Many of these charges carry with them low fines and/or a minimal amount of jail time. Additionally, a simple charge can jeopardize your hunting, fishing and trapping license prohibiting you from pursuing your passion or hobby for a year or more. These suspensions are not just for the state of Missouri. Section 252.247 RSMo., allows Missouri to enter into a reciprocity compact with other states. Currently, 45 states are members of this compact. Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nebraska and New Jersey are the only remaining states that are not members.
We Can Help
For this reason, although these are typically minor charges, in some instances they carry serious penalties. You need an experienced attorney to defend your rights when facing a conservation based offense. At Kennedy, Kennedy, Robbins & Yarbro, LC, you are getting the assistance of experienced attorneys on your side. We know how to protect your rights when faced with these types of charges and the hurdles they present. Contact us or call us at (573)686-2459. We are here for you when you need us.