Is Poaching a Felony?

Is Poaching a Felony

Wyoming has strict laws that regulate hunting because wildlife is an integral part of Wyoming’s culture, heritage, and economy. Therefore, Wyoming game wardens, law enforcement officers, and prosecutors aggressively fight for harsh prison sentences, fines, and restitution.

As with any criminal offense in Wyoming, a conviction for poaching could have severe consequences. A judge could sentence a convicted poacher to jail, assess fines, and order restitution. A restitution order could be extraordinarily costly, depending on the value of the animal taken. Therefore, you must seek representation from a dedicated, knowledgeable, and skilled poaching defense attorney from Wyoming to protect your rights. 

Poaching Laws in Wyoming

Wyoming law requires that each person who hunts for trophy game, small game, or fish have the correct hunting or fishing license. Wyoming hunting laws set the hunting seasons and also limit the methods hunters use to harvest game. Violating the game and wildlife laws, especially when hunting without authority, is poaching.

Under Wyoming law, each hunter must have a hunting license. Additionally, each hunter must produce proof of a hunter’s safety certificate if asked for one. Furthermore, each hunter must attach the coupon to the animal before leaving the site. Coupons alert game wardens to the kill and prove the hunter lawfully harvested the animal. Similar provisions apply to fishing as well.

Punishments for Poaching

Poaching is a serious criminal offense in Wyoming. As with all crimes, the punishment for poaching depends on the severity of the crime and the individual’s criminal history.

According to Wyoming hunting laws, killing a gray wolf without authority, big game, or a trophy animal without a license or during a closed season is a high misdemeanor. Officials can bring one charge for every animal taken. The penalty for a high misdemeanor under Wyoming hunting laws is a maximum of one year in jail and a fine of no more than $10,000.

Poaching of other animals may also be a low misdemeanor. The penalty in Wyoming for a low misdemeanor poaching conviction is a maximum of six months in jail and a fine of no more than $1,000.

Certain animals receive greater protection from Wyoming’s poaching law. The following game animals receive greater protection from poaching in Wyoming:

  • Grizzly bear,
  • Black bear,
  • Mountain lion, 
  • Mountain goat,
  • Horned antelope,
  • Bighorn sheep,
  • Antlered moose,
  • Antlered deer, and
  • Antlered elk.

The crime remains a misdemeanor; however, the poaching fines range between $5,000 and $10,000. The offender may receive up to one year in jail. Additionally, the sentencing judge may order the offender to pay restitution for each animal killed.

Felony Poaching

Poaching is a felony in Wyoming in limited circumstances. Three poaching convictions for killing any of the animals listed above within 10 years is a felony. The maximum sentence for felony poaching is two years in prison and a fine between $5,000 and $10,000.

Wanton destruction of a big game animal is also a serious poaching offense. The punishment for poaching under this law is one year in jail and up to $10,000 in fines. However, the crime becomes felony poaching if the person received two convictions in the previous ten years.

Help with Your Wyoming Poaching Charges

Facing poaching charges without a formidable criminal defense lawyer representing you could be dangerous. A poaching conviction means that the state will suspend your license to hunt. Convictions, even for misdemeanors, have collateral consequences that no one realizes until it’s too late. Any conviction could hurt your chances of getting a job, holding a professional license, obtaining a higher education, and finding housing. 

In addition to having a conviction on your record, you will have to pay restitution. The court will order payment of restitution for each animal poached. The restitution costs alone could reach well into the thousands, which you will have to pay even if you went to jail.

If you face poaching charges, contact Wyoming poaching defense attorney Jeremy Hugus and his team with Cowboy Criminal Defense today at 307-333-7884 to learn how he could help you. 

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