Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Columns

February 6, 2014

Senate Bill 52- The 'dumbing down' of Indiana wildlife violations

Our State legislative body is going about the business of streamlining our floundering State judicial system in order to relieve the backlog and pressure on the courts. A partial answer to the court’s overload has been proposed in Senate Bill 52. Senate Bill 52 will make many court involved procedures go away as violations are changed from Misdemeanors to Infractions. Unfortunately all of the natural resource related fish and game laws have been targeted to be reduced from misdemeanors to infractions.

The bill in its original form essentially decriminalized all Title 14 laws. In other words any laws pertaining to our fish and wildlife would be dropped from misdemeanor violations down to infractions. Originally, the only violation remaining a misdemeanor would be Hunting Without Consent of the Landowner.

On Jan. 28, an amendment was added and passed through a committee hearing correcting a number of the problems by reversing various violations back to misdemeanors but still essentially leaving the majority of all hunting violations as infractions. Below is an example with the amended version defining violations pertaining to the illegal taking of turkeys and deer.

“SECTION 45. IC 14-22-38-3 IS AMENDED TO READ AS FOLLOWS [EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2014]: Sec. 3. (a) A person who takes a deer or a wild turkey in violation of this article commits a Class B infraction. (b) A person who:(1) knowingly or intentionally takes a deer or a wild turkey in violation of this article; and (2) has a prior conviction or adjudication under this section within the previous ten (10) years; commits a Class C misdemeanor.

As explained to me… refuse to pay the fine or fail to appear for a misdemeanor; you get a warrant issued for your arrest. However, refuse to pay the fine for an infraction; you have the BMV revoking your driver’s license.

Indiana Conservation Officer Max Winchell was able to shed a little more light on the lessening of the severity of breaking many natural resource laws. “Actually, most all of the laws protecting wildlife are currently misdemeanors and SB 52 would make them infraction violations. Infractions are not jailable offenses nor do they carry any criminal penalties. Infractions are the lowest level citations, and there is no court appearance required. If they do not respond to the summons the court can suspend there drivers licenses. Many of the violators we encounter in natural resource law enforcement do not have drivers license and would not be concerned receiving a citation for an infraction.

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