Poaching & Criminal Law


When a person is charged with “poaching”, or in other words taking fish or wildlife without a valid license, there are several issues that always come up during the prosecution of those offenses. Here are the top 10 issues that frequently occur.

1. A person can be required to reimburse the State up to $20,000 for illegally taking a buck, and the amount of the penalty depends upon the size of the buck‘s antlers. The person is also often required to forfeit their vehicle and weapons to the State.

2. Did the person have a valid license, and for which season, weapon, and zone? This can often be a tricky question not readily apparent to the hunter or the law enforcement officer since some seasons overlap and apply to different persons for different reasons.

3. Is the person an Iowa resident or a non-resident hunter? A conviction in Iowa for illegal hunting to any extent is likely to affect your rights in every state.

4. A person does not lose all of their Constitutional rights just because they are hunting. A person maintains their rights to reasonable searches and seizures and rights to be free from governmental interference. A full analysis of the case is required regarding those issues.

5. Has the person been previously convicted of a felony or aggravated misdemeanor involving gun rights? Additional severe criminal penalties could apply.

6. Did any of the alleged criminal activities cross state lines? If so, additional federal criminal penalties apply.

7. Has the person had prior convictions under the wildlife code for either hunting or fishing violations? Each conviction no matter how minor has a point value and can increase the length of the new revocation of privileges.

8. Was the deer accidentally killed by a vehicle and were you attempting to salvage the meat? A salvage tag may or may not be necessary if you are collecting meat or antlers.

9. Did you report the harvest of the deer pursuant to Iowa’s wildlife reporting laws? Legally taken game is required to be reported and it’s a violation to fail to do so.

10. Does the State have evidence of a violations or is it merely a hunch? Unfortunately, I’ve seen law enforcement officers file poaching charges on nothing more than a mere hunch, and ultimately the case must be thrown out of court because with any criminal charge the government has to prove guilt by “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” It is especially important that you get involved immediately in the legal process because a person charged with poaching or other wildlife violations does have a right to a trial by jury, so long as they make that demand in writing to the court within 10 days of the charges.

Steve Lombardi
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