Maybe you shot the wrong animal, took more than your permit allowed, or your license was not renewed. And now, you’ve been charged and convicted of a wildlife crime in state court. But what about your hunting and fishing license?
Once you’ve pled guilty or to a plea in abeyance (probational guilty plea), the Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) will send you a notice of your hunting and fishing license being suspended. You’ll have the right to a hearing in front of a hearing officer to determine your license’s fate.
Under Utah Code Section 23-19-9, a hearing officer may suspend a person’s license if they are convicted or take a plea in abeyance for a crime against wildlife and the hearing officer determines the person committed the offense intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly.
The hearing officer also considers the conviction and if the offense bears a reasonable relationship to the person's ability to safely and responsibly perform the activities authorized by the certificate of registration.
See the word, “may” the first paragraph? This means the officer is not required to suspend your license. In the next paragraph, “considers” implies factors the officer should take into account. Because these terms allow discretion by the hearing officer, you should consider contesting your license suspension. The likelihood of suspension is high, but if you think your case is compelling enough, you should consider requesting a hearing. Directions will be in the DWR letter.
After the hearing officer decides if your license should be suspended, they’ll suspend up to the following times based on the charge. Felonies: seven years; Class A Misdemeanors: five years; Class B Misdemeanors: three years; Class C Misdemeanors: one year. In addition, a hearing officer can double any suspension if you already have your license suspended or are convicted of another wildlife crime during the period.
After your license is suspended, if you then apply, purchase, or possess a hunting and fishing license: you're also guilty of a Class B misdemeanor and your license is suspended another three years.
Are you being punished twice? DWR, an administrative agency, can file an administrative case against you for the same action as your criminal case, similar to the relationship between a driving offense and the Driver’s license division actions.
For example, you’re driving 30 miles over the limit. You’re given a speeding ticket, criminal charge. You pay the fine (criminal case) and the criminal case is closed. The Drivers License Division is notified and adds points to your license (administrative penalty). By speeding, you had a criminal offense (the fine) and the administrative penalty (points). Likewise, if you are charged with a wildlife crime, you face the crime (fine and possible jail time) and an agency action by DWR.
As with most of my columns, the moral of the story is don't break the law. Use your scope and shoot the right animal, in season. Don’t double-dip your tags. Let’s keep our love of hunting respectable and compliant with the law.
Disclaimer. My column is not legal advice, merely insight into the law and legal profession. If you have a general legal question, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 435.610.1431.