New Laws Give High Penalties for Poaching Big Game

One of Tennessee’s most valued assets is its abundance of natural wildlife. Our wildlife population includes several species of big game and has been a draw to hunters for generations. The state is as serious as ever about protecting that resource. Tennessee has always had in place various wildlife laws regarding those who poach big game animals. However, local landowners began working with Senators and Representatives in drafting amendments to existing laws. According to Tennessee Wildlife, the state’s official wildlife magazine, the landowners were particularly concerned with the dangers surrounding nighttime road-hunting.

The new law, which is described below, allows criminal courts to set restitution in poaching cases. Before this law was enacted, the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) had to sue an individual accused of poaching in civil court, prove the value of the animal, and then the civil court could order damages in the amount that would equate to restitution. There were no provisions allowing for a criminal court to order restitution for an animal except in the case of wild elk.

The change in the law, which went into effect in June 2015, allows judges to impose enhanced restitution penalties on those convicted of illegally killing or possessing illegally killed big game animals. The law as amended, TCA 70-4-116, places a value on big game animals in the following amounts:

  • Not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) per animal, for each of the following that is illegally killed or possessed: wild turkey; white-tailed deer with no antlers; and antlered white-tailed deer with less than eight (8) antler points;
  • Not less than one thousand five hundred dollars ($1,500) per animal, for each of the following that is illegally killed or possessed: wild elk with no antlers; and antlered wild elk with less than eight (8) antler points;
  • Not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) per animal plus five hundred dollars ($500) per antler point, for each antlered white-tailed deer with at least eight (8) but not more than ten (10) antler points that is illegally killed or possessed;
  • Not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) per animal plus seven hundred fifty dollars ($750) per antler point, for each antlered white-tailed deer with eleven (11) or more antler points that is illegally killed or possessed;
  • Not less than one thousand five hundred dollars ($1,500) per animal plus five hundred dollars ($500) per antler point, for each antlered wild elk with at least eight (8) but not more than ten (10) antler points that is illegally killed or possessed;
  • Not less than one thousand five hundred dollars ($1,500) per animal plus seven hundred fifty dollars ($750) per antler point, for each antlered wild elk with eleven (11) or more antler points that is illegally killed or possessed; and
  • Not less than five thousand dollars ($5,000) per animal, for each bear that is illegally killed or possessed and for each bear cub that is orphaned by the illegal killing or possession of a bear.
  • In addition to these amounts, the law states that a judge shall revoke the hunting license of the offender until all restitution has been paid. Since its inception, the law has been enforced in cases involving deer, turkey, bear, and elk. In many of those cases, the courts have ordered restitution that have totaled nearly $10,000.

    Poaching also remains a problem on Fort Campbell Army Base. The federal government has long had mandatory restitution laws that prosecutors strictly enforce on post.

    If you are facing charges or restitution orders relating to any hunting activity, please contact our Clarksville criminal defense attorneys at Patton | Pittman Attorneys today.

    Call (931) 361-4477 or contact us online to request your free initial consultation. We are ready to discuss your legal defense options with you.

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