Federal Lacey Acts What Is the Lacey Act? How Can a Hunter Breach the Lacey Act? What Are the Penalties if I’m Convicted Under the Act? Being Indicted, Cited or Arrested on Federal Charges We Produce Results We Level the Playing Field Schedule a Consultation With a Colorado Lacey Act Wildlife Defense Attorney What Is the Lacey Act? If you’re a hunter or outfitter in Colorado, the Lacey Act is a piece of federal legislation you should be aware of. It punishes people who transport or sell illegally caught game across state lines (or from reservation or federal land). The Lacey Act, introduced in 1900, is the United States’ oldest and most powerful federal wildlife protection law. It penalizes people who import, export, buy, sell, acquire, or transport illegally acquired plants, fish, and wildlife across state lines or bring them into the country from overseas. When it was first created, the Lacey Act was designed to stop poachers selling game in other states, but today it covers a wider range of situations. Breaching the Act can have serious financial consequences. In 2012, Gibson Guitars, which manufactured musical instruments from smuggled Madagascar ebony and Indian rosewood, admitted breaching the Act and ended up paying a penalty of $300,000 and an additional $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. In addition to being fined, some big game outfitters have served terms in jail for contravening the Lacey Act. Back to Top How Can a Hunter Breach the Lacey Act? Many breaches of this Act are accidental, but unfortunately that won’t protect you from prosecution. Here are some common ways hunters and outfitters might breach the Act. Transporting illegally caught game. A hunter can breach the Lacey Act by selling or simply moving illegally caught game across state lines, to or from a Native American Reservation, or from a piece of federal land. For example, if you illegally catch game at a federal wildlife reserve, you will be technically breaching the Lacey Act by driving it home. Breaking another state’s laws. States have different laws aimed at regulating hunting, preventing the spread of animal disease, and ensuring local wildlife populations are sustainable. If you travel to hunt, make sure both your hunting expedition and the methods you are using to kill game are legal in the state you’re in. It’s a good idea to do your due diligence so you can avoid accidentally committing both local offenses while you’re there and Lacey Act violations when you try to leave. If you’re an outfitter sending meat home to a client, it also pays to check the rules in the state it’s going to. Outfitters have been caught in the past, not realizing that the client’s home state does not allow the importation of certain species of animal. Hunting with someone who doesn’t have a license. If your hunting buddy doesn’t have a license, you may also get into situations where you may have breached the Act. For instance, if you’re driving back home with game in your vehicle and you get stopped while travelling between states. If you use an unlicensed outfitter, you might also breach the Lacey Act when you try to move the meat or when they try to send it to you. It’s always best to know who you are hunting with and whether they’re licensed and complying with regulations. Illegal group shooting. If you’re hunting in a group and you exceed your individual limit for that state and try to pass it off as someone else’s kill, you can also be prosecuted under the Lacey Act. Not long ago, high-profile hunter Chris Brackett was caught and prosecuted under the Act when he tried to get around state limits for elk hunting by transporting an elk he had killed under his cameraman’s permit. Purchasing or being given meat from illegal hunting. A final way in which people may be caught by the Lacey Act is buying or taking meat from someone who has killed the animal illegally (whether or not the person accepting it knows it was caught illegally). If someone else offers you meat from an animal they have killed, it’s a good idea to check whether the person has a hunting license and a tag. Back to Top What Are the Penalties if I’m Convicted Under the Act? The Lacey Act creates both civil and criminal liability. The sentence a person or organization will receive depends upon their degree of culpability, with the law making a distinction between people who accidentally broke the Lacey Act and those who knowingly broke the law. If your livelihood depends on hunting or operating as an outfitter, the consequences for your business can be devastating: The maximum civil penalty for an individual is $10,000. The maximum misdemeanor penalty for an individual is a fine of up to $100,000 and/or up to one year imprisonment (the misdemeanor penalty for an organization is a $200,000 fine). The maximum felony penalty for an individual is five years’ imprisonment and a fine of $250,000 (the felony penalty is $500,000 for an organization). Hunters and outfitters convicted under the Lacey Act can have their hunting licenses or licenses to operate taken away and their equipment forfeited for a lengthy period of time. Back to Top Being Indicted, Cited or Arrested on Federal Charges Our attorneys are focused on producing results - which in the Federal system means keeping our clients out of the Federal Penitentiary! The United States Government has virtually unlimited money and resources to pursue its cases. In most cases - years of investigation go into a Federal indictment and hundreds of thousands of dollars in investigative costs, undercover stings and countless interviews. What this means for a potential client accused of Federal Charges is that the U.S. Government is unlikely to simply plea bargain away a case that they have spent so much time and money pursuing. Almost all federal investigations lead to an indictment or actual Federal charges. Many times, by the time an accused becomes aware of the investigation; vast resources have been marshaled against them that include undercover sting operations, wire taps and surveillance. The most important time to obtain a knowledgeable and aggressive defense attorney is when you first become aware that you are under investigation. Even if the investigation is centered around your spouse, another family member, a business associate or someone else, if the FBI or Federal Agents are wanting to talk to you, you need an aggressive and experienced defense attorney immediately. If you have not been indicted - our knowledgeable defense team will focus all of our efforts on ensuring that no charges get filed against you. Aggressive representation upfront and early is crucial in attempting to thwart the U.S. Government's attempts to charge someone with a federal crime. Recently the Federal Government has increased their investigation efforts towards mortgage fraud, insurance fraud, bank fraud, embezzlement cases, wire fraud and corporate white collar criminal activities. There has also been increased undercover activity by Federal investigative agencies designed to catch sex offenders, possessors of child pornography and soliciting minors over the internet. However, even minor offenses and traffic offenses committed on federal property such as a national park, can result in federal criminal charges. Back to Top We Produce Results Most Federal judges still sentence according to the Federal Sentencing guidelines which almost always include harsh and lengthy prison sentences. Our experienced defense attorneys have the past case results and the specific expertise to obtain sentences that are outside of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines or a Downward Departure. Back to Top We Level the Playing Field Our team of experienced federal trial attorneys and defense specialists will level the playing field between you and the United States Government. It is critical that you have a defense team when facing charges by the Federal Government and not just an individual lawyer. Federal defense and Federal Courts are drastically different than state courts and the trial tactics and strategies for producing results are also drastically different. Our clients are assured of a trial defense team with extensive trial experience and successes in the Federal system. Early representation is critical to obtaining results in the Federal System. Back to Top Schedule a Consultation With a Colorado Lacey Act Wildlife Defense Attorney Being charged under the Lacey Act can be very stressful and can have significant consequences for both you and your business. Make sure you have some good support and some sound legal advice. Patrick F. Welsh at Welsh Law, LLC, is an experienced and successful Colorado wildlife law attorney. Call Welsh Law, LLC, at (720) 836-1777 today to schedule a free consultation.