What Happens If You Violate a Colorado Wildlife Law?
Even the most diligent hunters can make mistakes. Colorado’s hunting regulations can be quite complicated – hunting a certain species of animal might be allowed one season, but not allowed the next. In addition to being aware of which game can be hunted during each specific season, hunters must also be well-versed in other types of rules and regulations. It is not unusual for hunters with the best of intentions to receive a fine from $50 to $10,000-plus, depending on the violation in question. While most hunters are conscientious and careful, in Colorado, they are likely to unwittingly commit a violation of some sort.
Violating a state or federal wildlife law, even inadvertently, can slap you with hefty fines. If you are ever charged with a wildlife violation, it is important to have a trusted Colorado wildlife attorney by your side.
Hunting Restrictions in Colorado
No matter how knowledgeable you are in the world of hunting in Colorado, there may just be a law you have overlooked. When preparing for any type of hunting trip, you should re-review the rules and regulations, and all State of Colorado laws beforehand. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife has several brochures to review on its website, for the different wildlife activities you plan to participate in, and also information regarding the rules and regulations and wildlife laws of the State of Colorado.
Colorado regulates the following:
- Unlawful Possession of Small Game: If you take any small animal that is not allowed by the park and wildlife regulations, it is considered unlawful possession of small game. This includes hunting an animal out of season or bagging a larger number of animals than is allowed. The severity of each violation depends on the number of animals hunted. Shoot one pheasant out of season, for example, and you would be fined $50. Any additional pheasants would add $25 per bird to the initial penalty. Violating this rule can be all too easy, since many species look alike. It is important for each member of the hunting party to properly identify each type of animal before taking a shot. Fail to do so, and you’ve just hunted an animal in its off-season. It is also important to account for how many animals have been shot by each person, since a counting mistake may result in you going over the game limit.
- Possession of a Loaded Firearm in a Vehicle: One of the most common violations in Colorado is the act of carrying one or more loaded firearms while traveling in a vehicle. CO Rev Stat § 33-6-125 (2016) states: “It is unlawful for any person, except a person authorized by law or by the division, to possess or have under his control any firearm, other than a pistol or revolver, in or on any motor vehicle unless the chamber of such firearm is unloaded.” The rules are so complicated and arbitrary that it is smart to unload any firearm, other than a pistol or revolver, before driving your vehicle, since being stopped with a loaded gun in a moving vehicle can lead to a misdemeanor on your record and additional penalty points on your hunter’s license.
- Hunting on Private Property Without Permission (“Trespass to Hunt”): While trespassing can be an honest mistake, it is considered a serious offense in Colorado and can earn you a citation even if it happened by accident. It is advisable to always have a GPS system and map to avoid inadvertently trespassing on someone else’s property or leased property. Additionally, trespass to hunt carries a mandatory 20 points against your license privileges, which means you will be subject to a suspension hearing with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife and will face a potential 0 – 5 year suspension of your hunting and fishing privileges in not only Colorado but also the 48 Interstate Wildlife Compact States.
- Hunting Without a Valid/Proper License: If you fail to carry a valid Colorado Hunter Education card and hunting license while hunting, it can lead to big fines. Even if you have a license, you will be fined for hunting game if the license is not on your person. The amount of the fine varies depending on what type of game you were caught hunting. This can be quite costly. Hunting big game without a license, for example, can result in a fine that costs double the amount of the license itself.
- Interfering with Other Hunters: It is illegal to harass or threaten other hunters. Chasing away game, throwing objects, making noise, or walling off hunting areas can all lead to criminal prosecution and fines.
How to Fight a Wildlife Violation
Even the most experienced hunters can find themselves charged with a hunting violation in Colorado, which can snowball into numerous fines and a revoked hunting license. It is important to understand the details involved with each hunting rule and regulation before heading out. And after, it is important to consider your options before paying a fine for hunting violations.
By paying a fine, you are essentially pleading guilty to the charges. Patrick Welsh is an avid sportsman as well as a Colorado wildlife attorney. He will work with you and take the time to explain every option you have in the event of a hunting violation charge. Learn more today by contacting Welsh Law, LLC, at (720) 836-1777 to receive a free consultation.