HB 97 moves on

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2009/06/02 15:30:00 (permalink)

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    Pro Angler
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    RE: HB 97 moves on 2009/06/10 13:48:27 (permalink)

    Better too far back, than too far forward.
    Pro Angler
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    RE: HB 97 moves on 2009/06/10 15:56:21 (permalink)
    Below is a response from Rep.  Hanna.  Not a fan of the guy personally (mostly because of his support to grant Penn State the rockview property) BUT, here is some more reading about this bill.
    Thank you for your correspondence regarding House Bill 97 currently before the House Rules Committee for review.  Enclosed, please find a summary of HB 97 for your review.
    House Bill 97 was the result of numerous poaching violations, including the taking of multiple big game animals and killing of endangered and threatened species, this legislation proposes increases in fines, imprisonment, license revocations, and grading of offenses for serious game law violations. 
    Currently under Title 34 (Game), penalties have not been revised in over 20 years.  The penalties for poaching have shown that they are not strong enough to act as a deterrent, have not kept pace with other comparable provisions of criminal activity, are not equal to the provisions of surrounding states, and undervalue the seriousness of the offense and the worth of wildlife to the outdoor community.  
    With the new provisions of HB97, those who commit these crimes will face fines and penalties, including incarceration. Also, the new fine structure better relates to the penalties for other theft violations found throughout the state’s statutes as well as animal cruelty offenses. 
    As your State Representative and an avid hunter, I share your concern.  I supported amendments to treat commercial poachers different than hunters who make a mistake.
    Again, I want to thank you for your correspondence.  In the meantime, if there are any additional questions or concerns, or if I can provide further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact my office.
    Very truly yours,
    Mike Hanna  
    76th District
    State Representative
    The bill includes the following provisions:
    Penalties in General:
    The bill changes the fines and penalties section of Title 34 by moderately raising the minimum fines for summary offenses while leaving the maximum fine the same.  Misdemeanor charges are also enhanced, but more substantially, with significant increases in related fines and imprisonments for these more serious offenses.
    Poaching Penalties:
    Poaching offenses of big game out of season, over the bag limit, or at night with a light, known as jack lighting, are elevated to misdemeanor of the 3rd degree with a fine of $1,500 to $3,000 and possible 0-6 months imprisonment.  Current penalty is a summary offense of the 2nd degree with a $300 to $800 fine and no possible jail time.
    This bill creates a separate penalty, a summary 1, for the act of taking one deer or one turkey over the bag limit in season –for example, the scenario of a hunter illegally killing two deer or two turkeys, one of them being over the bag limit, during a single episode. It was argued that the individual who does this did so without the same level of premeditation as the person who takes game out of season, or who hunts at night with a light. Bear and elk will remain a misdemeanor 3.
    Three-tiered penalty structure for first offenses of killing a big game animal at night with a light, out of season, over the bag limit
    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
    Exception:       1 deer or turkey over the bag limit: S1
                                                        Second offense: M1
                            S1 =  $500   to $1500;        0-3 months imprisonment;   3 year license revocation
                            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
    Repeat Offenders:
    This bill lengthens the time period in which an offense can be counted as a second violation against a perpetrator from the current 2 year window to a 10 year period.
    New Felony:
    For the first time, Game Code violations may result in a felony.  Examples of a felony offense are for:
    Threatened or endangered species: the second or subsequent poaching offense either in the same criminal episode or within 10 years.
                                                                                                                                                    Big game (deer, bear, elk, turkey):  the third or subsequent poaching offense, either all at once or within 10 years; for
    Marketing or purchasing of animal parts: for an endangered species - two counts within one episode or within 10 years, and for big game – 5 counts within one episode or 2 counts within 10 years.
     Aggravated poaching of big game animals during one criminal episode: 1-2 big game animals poached  is a misdemeanor 3; 3-4 big game animals is a misdemeanor 1; poaching 5 or more big game animals during one criminal episode is a 3rd degree felony (the first felony in the Game Code).
    Second poaching violation within 10 years, no matter how many counts in the second episode, is a felony 3.                                                                                                                           
    3rd degree felonies are punishable by a fine of $10,000 to $15,000, a 15 year license revocation, and possible imprisonment from 1 to 3 years. 
    Examples of new felonies are the killing of 2 eagles or 5 deer illegally at night, or the selling of 2 bald eagle eggs or 5 black bear gall bladders, or the second offense within 10 years of poaching or illegal marketing.  
    Threatened and Endangered Wildlife Violations:
    The bill increases the penalty for poaching violations of threatened and endangered animals from a misdemeanor 3rd degree to a misdemeanor 2 with fines ranging from $3,000 to $5,000, possible imprisonment up to a year, and license revocation for 10 years.
    Mistake Kills and Negligent Kills of Antlered Deer:
    This bill removes the possibility of someone who turns in a mistaken kill to be charged with the much more serious negligent kill.  Presently, it is up to the WCO to decide if the mistake kill was truly a mistake or due to negligence.  With HB97, if someone takes the time to clean the animal, contact the Commission, travel and turn in the animal, they will not face any violation.  They will pay the current processing fee of $25 and that will be the end of the story.  The bill also extends the time period for reporting a mistaken kill from 12 hours to 24 hours and allows for the first time the use of email for making the report to the Game Commission. The bill seeks to remove any obstacle from any hunter turning in a mistaken kill. 
    Reward Payments from Hotline Tips:
    The bill includes an expansion in the circumstances in which reward payments can be paid to tipsters of illegal activity.  Currently, $200 can be charged of a defendant in poaching cases to be split between the informant who used the 800 tip line and the Game Commission.  This bill increases the amount of the possible additional penalty to $500 and allows any informants, up to two individuals, whether they used the tip line or not, to collect a reward for big game violations.
    Non Payment of Fines:
    This bill increases the time a person can be imprisoned for non-payment of fines
    and costs from 4 months to 2 years.  Cases of defendants choosing to sit out their fines in jail are too prevalent and would be countered by the considerably longer sentence. Also, this section addresses possible payment avoidance in high value cases.
    Payment of Costs of Prosecution:
    This bill adds language to provide a more formal and explicit mechanism for the assessment of costs of prosecution in Title 34 cases that result in a conviction. Because a Game Commission’s wildlife conservation officer prosecuting a case before a magisterial district judge is, in essence, standing in the place of the district attorney, the authority for the court to assess any cost incurred by the commission in the same manner as if the district attorney had been there needed to be clarified.                                                                                                                                   
    Hunting License Violations:
    In an effort to address habitual and chronic offenders, hunting on a revoked, suspended, or forged license is consolidated into one offense and will be raised to a summary of the 1st degree with a fine of $800 to $1,500 and imprisonment 0 to3 months and a 5 year license revocation.
    Introduction of ARD for Game Law Violations: 
    For first offenses, an agreement between the district attorney’s office and the courts can allow the violator to enter into an ARD program.  However, after completion of the program and the expungement of the participant’s record, another offense within 10 years will be treated as a second offense and be a felony 3.            
    Assaulting a WCO:                                                                                                                                      
                            HB 97 adds language to the section of Title 34 regarding resisting or interfering with an officer.  Language is inserted about resisting inspections and apprehension that mirrors the Fish Code. The grading of the offence is the same as in Title 30 also, a Misdemeanor 1. 
                            This legislation also adds the word “serious” before “bodily injury” to keep the section pertaining to assaulting an officer identical to Title 30. The penalty for assaulting a WCO is raised from a M2 up to a F2.
    The window for a second offense for trespass while hunting is extended from 2 years to ten years, with the second violation resulting in a loss of hunting privileges for one year.
    The bill has the support of: Quality Deer Management, the Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, the National Wild Turkey Federation, Pheasants Forever, United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania, PA Ruffed Grouse, Pa Forest Coalition, PA Crossbow Association, PA Deer Association, PA Nature Conservancy, and the Humane Society of the United States.
    The NRA opposes the felony portions of the bill due to their stance that no one should lose gun rights for victimless crimes.  The Association has been active and aggressive in their lobbying against the measure, invoking hypothetical situations in which poachers are severely punished for acts that today are summary offenses.  As the bill reads today, all other concerns of the NRA have been addressed, except for the felony portions of the bill – which are designed to serve not only as a harsh punishment but as an effective deterrent. 

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    Pro Angler
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    RE: HB 97 moves on 2009/06/10 21:39:07 (permalink)
    While I understand the NRA's concern, there are tons of people who come to PA to poach because our fines are currently a joke.  And because of the current system PA can't recriprocate with other states so they can still get hunting licences in thier home and other states.  Likewise, a person on a license suspension here can still get one somewhere else..  This bill would change that.

    Better too far back, than too far forward.
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