In August 2012, state Rep. Jon Becker’s House Bill 1330 was signed into law creating an appeals process for Coloradans with suspended hunting or fishing licenses. This law gives hunters and anglers in Colorado a hearing and an appeals process for suspended licenses and allows a way and means for these individuals to continue to pursue their passion.
The Wildlife Attorneys at Welsh Law, LLC work with many clients to reinstate fishing and hunting rights in Colorado, and specifically between Julia Stancil and myself, we have handled hundreds of wildlife cases throughout the county. For example, in December of 2014, Wildlife Attorney Julia Stancil went before the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to petition for a reinstatement of her client’s rights to hunt and fish in Colorado and all other states within the Interstate Wildlife Compact. Her client had received a decades-long suspension of hunting and fishing privileges after accumulating a series of tickets as a youth. The time limit to appeal such a suspension is thirty (30) days following an administrative decision, but unfortunately, the client had not retained legal counsel at the time and did not appeal. Without the right to appeal the decision, Ms. Stancil filed a Petition for Declaratory Order. This is essentially a petition for equitable relief that was based upon an argument that the client should not have received such a lengthy suspension based upon the statutes violated at the time. This unique argument prevailed and Ms. Stancil’s client immediately had their rights reinstated.
In the alternative, we also work to avoid the suspension altogether. Recently, I represented a client who was facing both federal and state charges for illegal possession of wildlife, with a potential of 35pts against the client’s hunting privileges. After our investigation and multiple plea discussions, I was able to negotiate a plea deal in which the state agreed not to pursue state charges, and to include a $10,000.00 Sampson charge. The federal prosecutors agreed to dismiss one of the two federal charges, which would limit the violation to 15pts, thereby avoiding the suspension hearing altogether and allowing our client to retain his privilege to hunt.
An appeal to the Commission is a difficult and challenging process that requires competent and knowledgeable representation. Here are three tips for you to build a strong case to get your rights reinstated:
- Hire legal counsel to create an appellate battle plan. This is not the time for you to represent yourself in court: join forces with a reputable law firm and begin preparing your appellate battle plan. Your legal representatives will start by preparing a thorough written analysis of the legal theories at issue in your case, which will include the elements of each cause of action and defense you plan to allege and of those you anticipate your opponent will raise.
- Begin building the record. If it’s not in the record, it didn’t happen. There is nothing more important to an appeal than ensuring that there is an adequate record to present to the appellate board. The hearing record, written and documentary evidence, along with certain mitigating documents are what the commission uses when considering the appeal. A transcript of the hearing is mandatory. Our wildlife attorneys utilize Transcription Outsourcing, LLC to record accurate transcripts of witness interviews and appeal hearings regarding cases on hunting privileges. These transcripts result in a much stronger case to present to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission.
- Make good objections and get a ruling. Here are the worst words you can hear from an appellate court or commission: “Great argument; not preserved.” To preserve the issue for appeal, you need to raise an objection, seek a remedy and secure a ruling. Make sure the trial record accurately reflects timely, meaningful objections, made on clearly stated grounds and is followed by a ruling by the court (or a clear request to rule).
If you have received a summons for a wildlife violation or have been given a notice of a hearing by the Division of Parks and Wildlife, contact the experienced Wildlife Attorneys at Welsh Law, LLC for a consultation. One of our attorneys can advise you, represent you for your wildlife violation at the court level both state and federal, argue the case at the hearing level to attempt to prevent or mitigate a suspension, and can also appeal a decision that is made by the hearings examiner.