FWC News Release
Contact: Carol Pratt (850) 488-4676
Prior offenders of Florida’s fish and wildlife laws will be receiving notice soon from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) that the next time they are caught they could face stricter penalties. Over the next week, the FWC will mail about 30,000 notices to prior violators.
The notices result from a 2006 statute, commonly referred to as the “Enhanced Penalty Law.” It increases penalties for those who repeatedly violate Florida’s recreational saltwater fishing, freshwater fishing and hunting laws; increases the penalty for hunting or fishing with a suspended or revoked license and establishes mandatory fines and suspension of recreational licenses.
“It is meant to deter individuals from hunting or fishing illegally,” Capt. Curtis Brown, FWC’s Interstate Wildlife Compact administrator, said. “Repeat offenders could lose their hunting and fishing privileges for several years or in some cases their lifetime.”
Under this law, Florida joins 23 other states in the Wildlife Violator Compact, which prevents anyone who has had his hunting, fishing or trapping privileges revoked or suspended in his home state from engaging in those activities in any other member state.
“Wildlife lawbreakers cannot escape consequences simply by crossing the state line,” Brown said.
The law classifies violations at four levels and includes increased penalties at each level for repeat violators.
Level 1 violations are those that do not directly impact natural resources, such as hunting or fishing without a license, deer hunting without an orange vest and violations of wildlife management area rules.
For Level 1 violations, first and subsequent convictions result in a $50 fine plus court costs, unless the defendant was convicted of having no license. In that case, he would have to pay the cost of a license, too. Any subsequent violations of having no license would result in a mandatory $100 fine plus the cost of a license.
Level 2 violations are criminal infractions that directly impact resources, such as exceeding bag limits, fishing or hunting during closed seasons, violating artificial reef requirements and illegally feeding wildlife.
For those violations the first conviction is punishable by a maximum $500 fine and 60 days in jail. A second conviction within three years carries a mandatory minimum fine of $250 and up to a year in jail. A third conviction within five years can result in a mandatory $500 fine, a year in jail and a mandatory one-year suspension of all FWC recreational licenses and permits. Fourth and subsequent convictions within 10 years of Level 2 or higher carry the same penalties plus a minimum mandatory fine of $750 and a three-year suspension of all FWC recreational licenses and permits.
Level 3 infractions are more serious violations, such as illegal possession of commercial quantities of freshwater game fish, taking deer or turkey during a closed season or with use of a gun and light at night, possession of three fish in excess of the daily bag limit of trout, snook or redfish, taking 1,000 pounds or more of illegal finfish or 100 or more lobsters, stone crabs or blue crabs.
First conviction will result in a maximum $1,000 fine and a year in jail. A second conviction within 10 years carries a maximum one year in jail and mandatory minimum $750 fine plus mandatory three-year suspension of all FWC recreational licenses and permits.
Level 4 infractions are the most serious violations. They include possession of a counterfeit license, molestation or theft of freshwater fishing gear or lobster, stone or blue crab traps, lines or buoys, or illegal sale of illegally harvested deer, turkey or marine fish.
First and subsequent convictions are punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and five years in jail.
Hunting or fishing with a suspended or revoked license previously carried a penalty of a mere $50 fine, court costs and the cost of the license. Anyone convicted of violating the law now will face a mandatory $1,000 fine and five-year suspension of all FWC recreational licenses, and could face up to a year in jail.