Utah Defense Attorney for Destruction of Protected Wildlife

Salt Lake criminal defense lawyer

In Utah and throughout the western United states, there are large portions of land where wild animals still roam about freely. While hunting, fishing, and catching wildlife are generally legal in Utah, you must have the proper licenses to do so and must do so during the designated season. If you fail to abide by these regulations, you can get into serious trouble if you kill or poach an animal that has protected status under the law, which in Utah includes most all wildlife. Under these stringent protection laws, you can end up charged with a crime known as “wanton destruction of protected wildlife,” punishable by long jail terms and high fines.

At Overson & Bugden, our skilled Utah defense attorneys for destruction of protected wildlife have many years of experience successfully defending clients throughout the state who have been charged with this crime. From the beginning of your case all the way to the end, we will be there with your every step of the way to answer any questions you may have, serve as your fearless advocate, and work to get your charges downgraded or dismissed. For a free consultation, contact us today at (801) 758-2287.

Understanding Charges for Destruction of Protected Wildlife in Utah

Wanton destruction of protected wildlife, usually shortened to destruction of protected wildlife, is a crime in the state of Utah that occurs when an individual captures, injures or destroys protected wildlife. For the charge to apply, the capture, injury, or destruction of the wildlife either must have been intentional, knowing, or reckless on the part of the individual, or, if was not, the individual must have acted for pecuniary (monetary) gain, been under a court or division revocation of a license, tag, permit, or certificate of registration, committed the offense at night with the use of a weapon, or intentionally abandoned the wildlife or carcass.

In Utah, most wildlife, aside from except for coyotes, field mice, gophers, ground squirrels, jack rabbits, muskrats, and raccoons, is considered protected under the laws referenced within the statute for wanton destruction of protected wildlife. Also considered destruction of wildlife for the purposes of this law are the acts of possessing or transporting live aquatic wildlife, using wildlife in commercial ventures not permitted under state law, killing multiple of the same big game animal in a single season, and importing or exporting protected species, among other related acts.

Penalties for Destruction of Protected Wildlife in Utah

The penalties you can face for being convicted of this crime will vary depending on the type of wildlife involved. If the aggregate value of the protected wildlife is $500 or more, it is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in jail and up to $5,000 in fines. If the aggregate value is more than $250 but less than $500, it 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, it is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and $1,000 in fines. If the animal involved was considered a trophy animal under the law, the charge is automatically a third-degree felony.

For the purposes of determining the grade of the charge, the value of each type of protected wildlife is defined under the statute. Valued at $1,000 per animal are bison, bighorn sheep, bear, peregrine falcons, rocky mountain goats, moose, bald eagles, and any other endangered species. Elk and wildlife classified as a threatened, but not protected, species are valued at $750. Cougars, golden eagles, river otters, and gila monsters are valued at $500 each, pronghorns and deer are valued at $400 each, and bobcats are valued at $350. Valued at $100 each are swans, sandhill cranes, turkey, pelican, loon, egrets, herons, raptors, the Utah milk snake, and the Utah mountain king snake.

Furbearers not elsewhere mentioned are valued at $35, while trout, char, salmon, grayling, tiger muskellunge, walleye, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and wiper are valued at $25. The value is $15 per animal for game birds not elsewhere mentioned, $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. For a second charge involving a trophy animal, or if your motive for capturing the animal was pecuniary, you will face a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 days in jail.

Defenses to the Charge of Destruction of Protected Wildlife in Utah

First and foremost, it is a defense to this charge if you possessed a valid hunting, trapping, or fishing license and followed all rules and regulations issued by the state when you committed the act. Furthermore, the charge does not apply to actions undertaken in accordance with the Utah Pesticide Control Act, the Agriculture and Wildlife Protection Act, or section 23-16-3.1 of the Utah Criminal Code, which allows for authorized crop owners to kill certain animals.

Furthermore, unless you meet one of the other conditions, like acting for pecuniary gain through poaching or shooting wildlife at night, your actions have to be “intentional, knowing, or reckless.” Intentionally means acting purposefully, with the action of killing, trapping, or fiction the animal being their conscious objective or desire, while knowingly means being reasonably aware that your conduct will cause the result. Finally, recklessly means consciously ignoring a substantial and justifiable risk that your actions will result in a violation of this law.

A skilled Utah defense attorney like those at Overson & Bugden will know how to use one or more of these or other defenses to work to get the prosecutor to downgrade or dismiss your charges. If not deal can be reached to your satisfaction, our skilled trial lawyers are ready and able to fight for a not guilty verdict at trial by arguing to the jury that they cannot find you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Call Our Experienced Utah Defense Attorneys for Destruction of Protected Wildlife

Wildlife protections are expansive in Utah, and you can get into serious trouble for hunting, trapping, or fishing without a license. At Overson & Bugden, our skilled Utah defense attorneys for destruction of protected wildlife will work to tell your side of the story and bring your case to a successful end. For a free consultation, call our firm today at (801) 758-2287.