Salt Lake City Defense Lawyer for Destruction of Protected Wildlife

Salt Lake criminal defense lawyer

Utah is known for its vast, beautiful expanses of open land, home to the many species of wildlife that roam, fly, or swim throughout the state, from deer, to bald eagles, to large-mouth bass. Hunting, trapping, and fishing are legal in the state only if you have the proper license and follow all rules and regulations, but unfortunately, many people fail to do so. If you kill or capture an animal considered protected wildlife outside the legal means of doing so, you can be charged with a serious crime known as “wanton destruction of protected wildlife.”

Being convicted of this crime can lead to severe penalties including jail time. At Overson & Bugden, our skilled Salt Lake City lawyers for destruction of protected wildlife have years of experience successfully defending clients against this charge. For a free consultation, call us today at (801) 758-2287.

The Crime of Destruction of Protected Wildlife Defined in Salt Lake City

“Wanton destruction of protected wildlife” is defined as occurring when an individual either intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly captures, injures or destroys protected wildlife. If the act was not intentional, knowing, or reckless, the charge can still apply if you acted for pecuniary gain, intentionally abandoned the wildlife or carcass, committed the offense at night with the use of a weapon, or were under a court or division revocation of a license, tag, permit, or certificate of registration.

This crime can also be charged in various related circumstances noted in the statute, including but not limited to killing multiple of the same big game animal in a single season and importing or exporting protected species. Furthermore, this law has very broad-ranging authority because of the broad class of wildlife considered protected under the law’s definition. In fact, of all the animals, fish, and birds in the state, only field mice, gophers, ground squirrels, jack rabbits, muskrats, coyotes and raccoons are not considered protected wildlife for the purposes of this law.

How Penalties Are Assessed for Destruction of Protected Wildlife in Salt Lake City Convictions

In the text of the statute, each animal or class of animals considered protected wildlife is given a dollar value. Bison, bighorn sheep, bear, peregrine falcons, rocky mountain goats, moose, bald eagles, and any other endangered species are given the highest value of $1000 per animal. The value is $750 for elk and wildlife classified as a threatened, but not protected, species. The value per animal is $500 for golden eagles, river otters, gila monsters, and cougars, $400 for pronghorns and deer, and $350 for bobcats.

Swans, sandhill cranes, turkey, pelican, loon, egrets, herons, raptors, the Utah milk snake, and the Utah mountain king snakes are valued at $100 each. The value of “furbearers not elsewhere mentioned” is given as $35. Valued at $25 are trout, char, salmon, grayling, tiger muskellunge, walleye, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and wiper, while the vale for “game birds not elsewhere mentioned” is $15 per. The final values are $10 per game fish not elsewhere listed, $8 per pound of processed brine shrimp, and $5 per animal for any other type of protected wildlife not listed.

The range of penalties available to the judge at sentencing will be determined by the aggregate value of the wildlife as per the list detailed above. If the aggregate value of all wildlife involved is $500 or more, the crime is charged as a third-degree felony, and you face up to five years in jail and up to $5,000 in fines. If the aggregate value of the wildlife is more than $250 but less than $500, the crime is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and up to $2,500 in fines, and if the value is $250 and less, the crime is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and $1,000 in fines. If the animal involved was a trophy animal, the charge is automatically a third-degree felony, and, if you have been previously convicted of the crime in relation to a trophy animal, or if your motive for capturing the animal was to make money, you will face a mandatory minimum sentence of at least 20 days in jail.

How a Salt Lake City Defense Lawyer Can Help with Your Destruction of Protected Wildlife Case

There are a number of strong defenses to this crime that an experienced Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer like those at Overson & Bugden can leverage in order to get your charges downgraded or dismissed, or, if necessary, to achieve a not guilty verdict at trial. The text of the law specifically states that the charge does not apply to actions under Utah Pesticide Control Act, the Agriculture and Wildlife Protection Act, or section 23-16-3.1 of the Utah Criminal Code, related to farmers killing crop-destroying wildlife. Another strong defense that can usually get the charges dismissed is if the act occurred while you were hunting, trapping, or fishing with a valid license and in accordance with all statewide rules and regulations.

Furthermore, unless you meet one of the other conditions like hunting with a weapon at night, your actions must have been intentional, knowing, or reckless for the charge to stick. A skilled defense attorney can argue that your conduct does not meet the threshold of the legal definitions of these states of mind. For example, the minimum state of mind is recklessness, meaning consciously ignoring a substantial and justifiable risk that your actions will result in a violation of this law. If you did not consciously ignore any risk, we can use that to argue to the prosecutor or jury that your intent cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Call Our Seasoned Salt Lake City Defense Lawyers for Destruction of Protected Wildlife Today

Destruction of protected wildlife is a charge that can be applies to many activities involving the trapping, fishing, or hunting of wildlife, even some many would not think are illegal. Nonetheless, a conviction can come with serious consequences including jail time. At Overson & Bugden, our skilled Salt Lake City defense lawyers for destruction of protected wildlife have years of experiences working with clients charged with this crime to get their charges downgraded or dismissed. Call us today at (801) 758-2287 for a free consultation.