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Jan 25, 2019

Hidden License Suspensions for Recreational Crimes

If you like to hunt or fish, or like to ride recreational vehicles, you may have come across someone in the Warden service. The wardens are the primary law enforcement for all issues relating to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW). The wardens may decide to charge you with a crime, and if you are convicted, you may face license suspensions not mentioned in court. This is because the Department, not the Court, will impose the suspensions. But what are the suspensions, and for how long? Are any of them mandatory? Do they affect all licenses, or just specific ones? A criminal defense attorney will help guide you through the process and advise you of any license suspensions you may face, but below is a general guide through license suspensions through IFW.

Title 12 of the Maine Revised Statutes, Part 13, contains all provisions for license suspensions resulting in IFW crimes. There are no effects on a driver’s license, but hunting for fishing licenses can be at stake, or permission to operate boats, snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). Any conviction for any offense under this title (hunting, fishing, boating, snowmobiling, ATV riding) can put any and all licenses under this Title at stake. The Commissioner of the IFW has the discretion to suspend licenses for any offense, even if there is no mandatory license suspension. The Commissioner even has the discretion to set the amount of suspension. You are allowed to request a hearing on the suspension, but without a good argument against suspension, you will be stuck serving whatever suspension the Commissioner dictates.

There are some offenses that require a mandatory suspension of a license or all licenses based on the severity of the crime. Someone can lose every license if they commit a crime under Title 17-A of the Maine Revised Statutes, known as the Maine Criminal Code, while on a hunting or fishing trip. Crimes like theft, assault, and drug possession are all under Title 17-A. This requires a suspension of one year, unless someone was wounded or killed, in which case causes a minimum five-year suspension. If someone is convicted of disturbing traps, they must forfeit all licenses to the IFW. Lastly, if you are classified as a habitual offender of IFW crimes (two or more), and you commit another IFW crime, your license will be suspended indefinitely, with no chance of restoration for at least three years.

The Legislature requires mandatory hunting license suspensions for a few hunting-specific crimes. If convicted of the following offenses, your hunting license will be suspended for one year: Hunting during closed season, hunting under the influence, night hunting, discharging a firearm within 100 yards of a home without that owner’s permission, buying or selling game or exceeding the bag limit on game, hunting over someone else’s bear bait, hunting coyote, tearing down property posting signs or hunting deer over bait. A second offense for hunting deer over bait requires a two-year license suspension, and hunting with night vision equipment requires a five-year license suspension.

Mandatory fishing license suspensions occur when convicted of certain fishing crimes. A mandatory one year suspension occurs for the following crimes: introducing fish into a private pond without permission, taking double the amount of sport fish allowed, importing live bait fish or smelts, illegally buying or selling sport fish, fishing while a license is revoked, and taking fish by means of explosive, poison, or paralyzing agent. Destroying property signs will result in a fishing and hunting license suspension for one year. If you are convicted of unlawfully possessing, transporting or importing live freshwater fish or gametes (except for bait or smelts), the Commission will suspend your fishing license for five years.

Lastly, the Legislature requires suspensions of all licenses under IFW for certain ATV related crimes. Riding a temporarily closed trail or on another’s land without permission will result in at least ninety days of suspension, and maybe more unless you complete a safety and ethics course for ATV riding. All licenses, registrations and permits will be suspended for a year and IFW will require a safety and ethics course if you are convicted of the following ATV offenses: Abuse of another’s property, operating an ATV under the influence, operating an ATV to endanger, reckless operation of an ATV, and refusing to stop an ATV or eluding an officer on an ATV.

Pleading guilty to any IFW crime can have unintended consequences that no one informs you of until it is too late. Oftentimes with IFW crimes, the line between lawful actions and unlawful is a fine line, and a criminal defense attorney will help analyze your case and fight for your rights. If you are charged with a crime, contact the attorneys of MCD Group immediately for a consultation.

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