HB 2205 -- poaching update

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SilverKype
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2008/09/24 15:45:03 (permalink)

HB 2205 -- poaching update

Memo
To: All House Game and Fisheries Committee Members and All Co-sponsors of HB 2205
 
From: Representative Ed Staback, Chairman Game and Fisheries Committee
 
Subject: House Bill 2205 - Increase in Penalties for Title 34 Game Violations
 

Attached is an amendment to HB2205, my legislation that addresses penalties within Title 34 for the illegal killing of wildlife in Pennsylvania. This version includes several changes that I believe deserve highlighting. These changes were made after discussions with representatives of sporting organizations, legislative colleagues, Game Commission staff, and hunters who have contacted me about the bill.
One difference between this new language and the original HB2205 that is evident right away is that this new version of the bill is shorter. The new bill will center on penalties for poaching, the taking of threatened and endangered animals, and the unlawful marketing of animal parts.
 
It will no longer include language about prosecutorial process for the collection of contraband and the forfeiture of property that some found objectionable.
 
My initial interest in proposing HB2205 was to greatly increase the penalties for wanton killing of game. While preparing the bill, portions of Title 34 that addressed forfeiture of contraband and procedural safeguards were shown to be in need of a rewrite due to court rulings that found them vague and ruled them void.
 
It was thought that this bill could be a good vehicle to get that revision accomplished. I changed my mind after listening to complaints about the scope of the bill and about the technical language suggested by the Game Commission.
 
There was a strong possibility that the confiscation language as suggested by the courts could keep the bill from becoming law, thereby losing my goal of the increased penalties also. I decided to split the bill, while still wanting both sections to become law.
 
A separate companion piece of legislation will now include the forfeiture of personal property provisions – legislation that I will strongly support and that will get the serious attention it deserves.
 
Along with the fact that my amendment to HB2205 will not have the forfeiture language e in it, it also will include other adaptations in the proposed penalties.
 
New penalty breakdown
In response to concerns over fairness in sentencing that were raised about the original proposed penalties structure, including the introduction of a felony offense into Title 34, changes are proposed to the bill’s original language.
 
In the original draft of the bill, 3 or more counts in one incident of poaching a big game animal at night with a light, out of season, or over the bag limit or as a third offense was to be a Felony 3.
In the proposed amendment, the number of animals illegally taken per episode to trigger a felony is raised to 5. The 3rd and 4th count will now be graded as a Misdemeanor 1 with a fine of $5,000 to $10,000, possible imprisonment up to 2 years, and a license revocation of 10 years. The 5th count becomes a Felony 3 with a license revocation of 15 years and a fine of $10,000 to $15,000 and up to 3 years imprisonment.
 
This new gradation is designed to compare with the approach of other states, especially Ohio, which calls for higher penalties for increased numbers of violations and reflects fairness in sentencing. The use of a felony would be held for the most egregious violators.
Also of note, this new language calls for the charging of second offenders within a ten year window with a Felony 3, instead of the three strikes provision in place within the original printing of HB2205.
Another change in this new draft is the removal of the mandatory minimum jail time for the Felony 3 sentencing. Instead, the sentencing is now to be left to the judge’s discretion.
Added to the bill is an increase in the penalty for assaulting a wildlife conservation officer from its current status as a Misdemeanor 2 up to a Felony 2.
Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD)
Along with the changes in the sentencing guidelines, specifically the greater use of misdemeanors, the new language includes the highlighting of ARD as a sentencing option. If the district attorney and judge agree, an individual charged with one of the new misdemeanors could qualify for this program that combines community service and rehabilitation.
 
In some cases, an individual, especially a young person, simply can make a bad decision and find themselves breaking the law because of intoxication or other deviations in their usual behavior and reasoning. For those situations, ARD should be available. The cost of the program and the level of commitment of time and effort necessary for the community service portion of the sentencing allow ARD participants to make a positive social impact while learning lessons.
Importantly, the offense that triggered the ARD sentencing will count as a first offense. As mentioned above, with this new language, the second offense, not the third, will be a Felony 3. This quicker path to a felony for a repeat offender is seen as a compromise for the availability of ARD for the first offender.
 
Removal of Mandatory Sentencing
In the first version of the bill, mandatory jail time for the Felony 3 was included. Mandatory minimum sentencing is opposed by the Judiciary in all instances. In the proposed amendment to HB2205, judicial discretion will determine the length of incarceration.

 
HB2205 will still:
Change the definition of poaching to specifically include unlawful taking of game during closed seasons and beyond established daily or season limits
Introduce the first felony charge into the Game Code
Increase penalties for illegal game kills from summaries to misdemeanors and felonies, substantially raising fines and adding possible incarceration
Address black marketeering of animal parts and commercial poaching with misdemeanors and felonies
Use jail time in sentencing
Increase second violations of illegal game kills and illegal trade of game to felonies
Increase penalty for the assaulting of a WCO from a misdemeanor to a felony 2
Extend the time period for which someone can be prosecuted for a second violation for trespass while hunting and unlawful killing, selling and buying of game from two years to ten years.
House Bill 2205 includes the strongest penalties ever offered in Pennsylvania for poaching and illegal trading in animal parts. With its passage, Pennsylvania will cease to be a land of opportunity for those willing to break our game laws; simply put, HB2205 will raise the penalties to match the seriousness of the crimes.
 
 
--------------------
 
 

A fast fact sheet about the proposed bill:
HOUSE BILL 2205 FAQs
How does the number of big game poaching offenses in PA compare with other states with similar hunting traditions and opportunities?
PA has substantially higher number of big game poaching than states surveyed (including Ohio and Michigan). PA has almost double the number of violations of the similar state of Michigan with a 10 year average of 463 violations per year; PA has a 10 year average of 931 violations in the same categories.
Are poaching violations in PA growing?
Given the fact that the number of officers has dropped 32% in three years and the number of violations has remained as high, it appears that the remaining officers are experiencing increasing violation rates.
Is the black market in animal parts expanding?
The black market is growing around the nation. Specific kills for the harvesting of high value animal organs or parts is a disturbing trend that targets a variety of animals, including threatened and endangered species. Pennsylvania, given its light penalties and lack of jail time in sentencing, is seen as a land of opportunity for unscrupulous black market traders. This bill will address the trend by increasing the punishments, including substantial fines and incarceration.
How strong are Pennsylvania’s game protection laws compared to other PA statutes?
Our laws are very weak in comparison, for example: the intentional killing of a cat is a Misdemeanor 2, the second offense is a Felony 3. To kill a zoo animal is a Felony 3. Any theft involving $1,500 of value is a felony.
What are thrill kills?
A thrill kill is a disturbing instance of an individual or a group slaughtering animals in a rampage for simply the sake of killing.
Does HB2205 include mandatory jail time as a punishment of Title 34 violations?
There is no mandatory incarceration included in HB2205, in keeping with the expressed wishes of the state’s judiciary. This bill includes for the first time the possibility of jail time for poaching violations.
When would ARD be available as a sentencing option?
ARD would be available for first offenses that are misdemeanors. Before ARD would be offered, the district attorney’s office would have to agree. Program costs and considerable community service hours are usually included in ARD sentencing.
How does the introduction of misdemeanors and felonies change the way a case is prosecuted?
All poaching violations will be prosecuted through the district attorney’s office. Currently, since such violations are summary offenses, the case is heard at the district magistrate level, with the Game Commission’s Wildlife Conservation Officer serving as prosecutor. With this new elevation of the offense, the county DA will review each case that is brought to determine if there is enough evidence to prosecute. Also, there will be a preliminary hearing. These extra steps will bring several additional sets of eyes on each arrest before any prosecution begins.
What are the proposed new penalties?
See attached charts (sorry - didn't get them with this data)
Is there still a ‘three strike’ provision for repeat offenders to be charged with a felony?
There is not. The three strikes provision will be replaced with the three tier penalties and new language making a second offense within a ten year look-back a Felony 3.
What is the three-tiered penalty structure for first offenses of poaching?
For the first offense: 1-2 counts = Misdemeanor 3; 3-4 counts = Misdemeanor 1; 5 and up counts = Felony 3. For second offense: Felony 3
M3 = $1,500 to $3,000; 0-6 months imprisonment; 5 year license revocation M1 = $5,000 to $10,000; 0-24 month imprisonment; 10 year license revocation F3 = $10,000 to $15,000; 0-36 month imprisonment; 15 year license revocation
Does the bill address the confiscation of contraband, including weapons and vehicles?
The sections of the bill that addressed these issues are removed by the proposed amendment. A separate companion piece of legislation will include the forfeiture of contraband – legislation that I will strongly support and that will get the serious attention it deserves.
How does the bill change the offense of assaulting a Wildlife Conservation Officer?
It takes the offense from a Misdemeanor 2 to a Felony 2. Presently kicking a police dog is Felony 2, assaulting a police officer is F2 and a Fish and Boat Wildlife Conservation Officer is already F2. This provision elevates the PGC officer to the level of other law enforcement entities. _________________________


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12 Replies Related Threads

    jlh42581
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    RE: HB 2205 -- poaching update 2008/09/27 09:40:40 (permalink)
    so you have to shoot 5 deer under the spotlight for it to be a felony, what a crock of ****. If it was one, i bet some of these people would think twice. Imagine trying to get a job..."oh btw... i have a felony for killing wildlife illegally." GET THE F OUT OF MY OFFICE AND NEVER COME BACK
    #2
    S-10
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    RE: HB 2205 -- poaching update 2008/09/27 09:51:20 (permalink)
    so you have to shoot 5 deer under the spotlight for it to be a felony, what a crock of ****. If it was one, i bet some of these people would think twice. Imagine trying to get a job..."oh btw... i have a felony for killing wildlife illegally
     
     
     
     
    I think the five deer was as a result of Peacys input into the process. He was afraid they might look down on his just taking 1-2 for meat and consider him a poacher.
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    leadmen
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    RE: HB 2205 -- poaching update 2008/09/27 13:19:32 (permalink)
    im not sure how the felony thing is good in any way for the guy doing it or the state .this is no lie if you look up your state and put in a 4 or 5 time offence it can be speeding it can be a felony yes a felony how f$$$in stupid is that ? its a communist idea go figure these little laws just slipped in your face and some day can be used on you!!!  and no and i mean no knowledge that they are on the books unless some one reserches this there is no data base to look up it is incomplete at best and may have been in law and never used until you!!!  i fell to much restriction and i want freedom not a ax over my head held up by a string , the felony thing is used toooo much and needs to be cut out in many ways in the last 10 years they had to add a toatal section in the books for different class of felony thats only for driving not murder not****not stealing and the other thing if you****a child and mame other than mental but physical its not punishable by death that has been overturned and****they guy or wemon i call them, can get out in 2years or less what a crock of schit i cant say its ok to poach its not but id say no hunting for 5years and the second thing ,did they hunt for the freezer? or for the hell of it or was it a real poaching case? these need to be all considered in just my rant and rave we need to stop felons yes but we dont need to lable so many peeps its just down right bad bad bad these peeps will stop doing what ever it was they just need education not a felony then they cant get a good job and now starts a life of crime for a lot of peeps mmmmm just something to chew on
    #4
    peacymike
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    RE: HB 2205 -- poaching update 2008/09/27 18:13:34 (permalink)
    ORIGINAL: S-10

    so you have to shoot 5 deer under the spotlight for it to be a felony, what a crock of ****. If it was one, i bet some of these people would think twice. Imagine trying to get a job..."oh btw... i have a felony for killing wildlife illegally




    I think the five deer was as a result of Peacys input into the process. He was afraid they might look down on his just taking 1-2 for meat and consider him a poacher.
      yep if you can find one to shoot that be nice .alt what's them killed off so does the game commision i help them out
    post edited by peacymike - 2008/09/27 20:37:48
    #5
    *commander*
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    RE: HB 2205 -- poaching update 2008/09/27 21:50:44 (permalink)
    the deer are in the woods. you have to find them. they dont like to get shot.
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    *commander*
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    RE: HB 2205 -- poaching update 2008/09/27 21:59:14 (permalink)
    poachers are deadbeats. if it wasnt 5 there would be more deadbeats than usual taking up prison space. governement already gives able-bodied deadbeats money, they probably figure there's no reason to take up prison space, too. besides, thered be more congecal(sp) visits and nobody wants to see peacy and stealys going at it behind bars.
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    peacymike
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    RE: HB 2205 -- poaching update 2008/09/28 10:26:06 (permalink)
    ORIGINAL: *commander*

    poachers are deadbeats. if it wasnt 5 there would be more deadbeats than usual taking up prison space. governement already gives able-bodied deadbeats money, they probably figure there's no reason to take up prison space, too. besides, thered be more congecal(sp) visits and nobody wants to see peacy and stealys going at it behind bars.
    dream on
    #8
    bigtrout4x4
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    RE: HB 2205 -- poaching update 2008/09/28 23:31:23 (permalink)
    let me guess, the person that wrote the rule book, is also the one that will not allow us hunters to kill the wild boars that have gotten loose in cambria county---  the good ole game commision says they will catch them with traps,,,  well they screw like rabbits 3-4 litters a year  6-12 at a time,,,  i live in cambria county and let me tell ya----  how many have you caught since you passed the no shoot law?????   because in the last 2 weeks there have been 5 hit on 422,, let us hunters do our jobs-- youns cant obviously,,,   before the law, my family killed 3-- seen ALOT, to brushy,   known of fellow hunters killing around 20-30.......STUPID LAW,, another check mark in the jacka.. box for the pa game commision!!!!!
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    ready2fish
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    RE: HB 2205 -- poaching update 2008/09/29 14:43:44 (permalink)
    ORIGINAL: leadmen

    im not sure how the felony thing is good in any way for the guy doing it or the state .this is no lie if you look up your state and put in a 4 or 5 time offence it can be speeding it can be a felony yes a felony how f$$$in stupid is that ? its a communist idea go figure these little laws just slipped in your face and some day can be used on you!!!  and no and i mean no knowledge that they are on the books unless some one reserches this there is no data base to look up it is incomplete at best and may have been in law and never used until you!!!  i fell to much restriction and i want freedom not a ax over my head held up by a string , the felony thing is used toooo much and needs to be cut out in many ways in the last 10 years they had to add a toatal section in the books for different class of felony thats only for driving not murder not****not stealing and the other thing if you****a child and mame other than mental but physical its not punishable by death that has been overturned and****they guy or wemon i call them, can get out in 2years or less what a crock of schit i cant say its ok to poach its not but id say no hunting for 5years and the second thing ,did they hunt for the freezer? or for the hell of it or was it a real poaching case? these need to be all considered in just my rant and rave we need to stop felons yes but we dont need to lable so many peeps its just down right bad bad bad these peeps will stop doing what ever it was they just need education not a felony then they cant get a good job and now starts a life of crime for a lot of peeps mmmmm just something to chew on



    Not sure what state your referring to but if it is PA you are wrong. Speeding is a summary offense, period. PA has no increase in grade for multiple offenses regarding speeding.
    There are actually very few felony offenses in the PA vehicle code. Off the top of my head only ones I can think of are for Fleeing or Eluding while DUI or engaging in a high speed pursuit; Vehicular homicide and related offenses such as Aggravated Assualt while DUI.
    I will agree that some crimes labeled as felony level could be overrated.
    I also agree that each case needs to be looked at individually regarding this whole felony poaching thing. If a guy is poaching to feed his family (pretty unlikely though) then it does not seem fair to treat him the same as a persons "killing for thrill".

    May I add, anyone from around Venango County may remember this case form the last few years. A group of teens went on a deer poaching spree and killed something like 30+ deer illegally, mostly by spotlighting them and shooting them. All deer were left for dead in the fields, it was a classic kill for thrill case. It truly did not seem fair that each offense they committed were summary level.
    IMHO that's the kind of wanton waste this bill is trying to combat.
    post edited by ready2fish - 2008/09/29 14:45:06
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    ready2fish
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    RE: HB 2205 -- poaching update 2008/09/29 14:47:21 (permalink)
    It's not the PA Game Commission passing this law, it's YOUR legislators.
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    leadmen
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    RE: HB 2205 -- poaching update 2008/09/29 16:25:54 (permalink)
    its ohio and did you know its a law no hunting whale in ohio on sunday ?????
    ok a lot of laws go tooo far so that = good peeps with a bad att
    kids on a killing spree im just trying to think that one out and i cannot for the life of me wrap my mind around that but i would think make them pick up every deer and bury it by hand with a small shovle or by screw driver and bare hands they need a lesson or they can lable them felon and place them fo 1 year for every deer = 30 yrs at 120k per yr 3600000 cool price fo a deer just does not click sorry guys same goes for bore let the real hunters take care of it teach not imprison i feel prison is the last and puting a felon on some one is in itself a prison i know guys that has happend too they are not the same and never will be and i have seen a few expire there own birth cert
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    ready2fish
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    RE: HB 2205 -- poaching update 2008/09/30 06:10:16 (permalink)
    Although I cannot totally understand your last post due to grammar, I do agree that with some crimes it's a bit harsh to label some as "convicted felons". My best example would be the crime of Forgery (in certain circumstances, not all!).  Don't forget we need to look at the big picture with every case that comes and goes. If a person is a first time offender and the circumstances warrant being lenient, then so be it. If the offender is a "regular" and already convicted of the same or similar offenses then they deserve what they get!
    The court system has plenty of programs to teach as you suggest BUT many of these offenders don't want to be taught.
     
    I'll be sure not to hunt whales on Sunday
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