In California, fish and game wardens are generally allowed to come onto private property or conduct administrative searches of vehicles occupied by someone who has engaged in the act of hunting or fishing.
According to what’s known as the “Open Fields Doctrine” wardens are authorized to enter private property without a warrant. They can do this to regulate and manage the publicly owned resources, which are fish, game, and wildlife. The justification for the Open Fields Doctrine in the context of fish and wildlife is that fish and wildlife officers may pass on to private property in the course of their patrols. If fish and wildlife officers were required to obtain a warrant to enter private property they would not be able to effectively enforce hunting and fishing regulations.
Similarly, a fish and wildlife officer who reasonably believes that a person has recently been fishing or hunting, but lacks reasonable suspicion that the person has violated a fish or game law, may stop a vehicle in which the person is riding to demand the person display all fish or game the person has caught or taken.
Entering into a residence would typically require a warrant, even for a state-regulated resource such as fish or wildlife. Fish and wildlife wardens can enter onto open lands, or stop someone who has recently hunted or fished, but they can’t necessarily enter into a residence without a warrant.
How Common Is It That Someone Charged With A Fish, And Wildlife Violation Just Was Unaware That They Were Breaking The Law And Can That Be Used As Part Of A Defense Against These Charges?
The laws pertaining to fish and wildlife are ever-changing; anyone who hunts or fishes, whether for recreation or legally for profit, must stay abreast of the rules. In addition, many fish and wildlife laws are enforced and prosecuted based on strict liability, meaning that the person’s intent or knowledge of the lawful conduct is irrelevant. Therefore, an assertion that a person is unaware they’re breaking the law is not necessarily a defense. In a case involving egregious conduct which implicates the Lacey Act, a person’s knowledge of wrongful intent may mean a difference between a felony, misdemeanor, or infraction charge.
If Someone Is Convicted Of A Fish And Wildlife Violation At Either The State Or Federal Level, Can They File An Appeal? And If So, What Does That Process Look Like?
If a person is convicted of a fish and wildlife violation at either state, federal, or even administrative level, they can file an appeal. An appeal of a final judgment, including a criminal conviction, can be appealed. Under some specific circumstances, a person can appeal a trial court decision before final judgment, including a ruling on a pre-trial motion. However, an appeal of a state or federal conviction does not typically involve or allow for the presentation of new or additional evidence. Instead, the parties are limited to what was presented in the trial court. An appeal is limited to what was presented to the trial court at the trial court level.
In California, a Notice of Appeal must be filed with the trial court; in the case of misdemeanors, the notice of appeal is to be filed within 30 days from the date of conviction or the judgement being appealed; for felonies, the notice of appeal must be filed within 60 days of the date of conviction or judgment appealed, and one may apply for a stay of the conditions imposed pending appeal. For example, I recently filed a motion for a stay of a sentence, which stayed the jail sentence as well as the fine payment, and that stay was in place for several years until the case was finally resolved on appeal.
Once you file the notice of appeal on a misdemeanor, you have to complete a form designating the record on appeal. On a felony, you will essentially receive the record on appeal by filing the notice of appeal, which includes the reporter’s transcript which is a record of all things said during the trial or court hearing being appealed. In addition to the reporter’s transcript, you will receive the court transcript, which includes the record of all documents filed with the court throughout the proceeding.
After the parties receive the record, both the appellant and the respondent, or in the case of federal court, the appellee, specific deadlines will be provided for filing the briefs. In a state court proceeding, you would either file your appeal to the appellate division of the superior court, or if it’s a felony, you will file it to the California Court of Appeal once the case is fully briefed, meaning you have had an opportunity to file an opening brief, the other party has filed an opposition brief, and you have had a chance to file a reply brief. Then, the case will be scheduled for an oral argument. Following the oral argument, the court will take the matter under submission and render a decision. The court can either affirm the conviction, which means they deny the appeal, reverse the conviction, or modify the judgment.
In California, the court of appeal has 90 days to render a decision once the case has been submitted after oral argument. The appeal of a federal conviction is similar. In federal court a party is entitled to a pre-trial appeal or a post-conviction appeal, and in federal court, appeals are to the United States Court of Appeals, which in California is the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Once the case is fully briefed and oral argument occurs, the federal appellate court has 30 days to 6 months to decide.
Many individuals involved in commercial fisheries may find themselves before the Fish and Game Commission in an administrative hearing to contest the suspension or revocation of their permits or licenses. The Fish and Game Commission may suspend or revoke fishing or hunting privileges. A person is entitled to bring an appeal of a decision made in an administrative proceeding through the Mandamus procedures to the California Superior Court. Once an appeal of an administrative decision is made to the superior court the person subjected to disciplinary action can litigate the decision of the administrative body to the superior court. If the superior court sustains (or agrees with) the decision of the administrative hearing officer, the decision of the superior court can be appeals to the California Court of Appeal and then to the California Supreme Court.
For more information on Fish And Wildlife Cases in California, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (415) 728-9982 today.