Hunting Violation? Think Twice Before Pleading Guilty…

Hunting license revocation season is upon us. I’ve been contacted by a number of individuals in the last several weeks regarding letters they’ve received from the Pennsylvania Game Commission stating that their hunting licenses have been revoked for the two years or more.

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As I’ve stated in the past and continue to maintain, when you are cited for a hunting violation, DO NOT plead guilty immediately. Seek out the advice of legal counsel. Many individuals are under the impression that by simply pleading guilty they will only be responsible for the fine that is attached. Often times, the officer issuing the citation even leads the person to believe that.

Unfortunately, more often than not, an individual will plead guilty, pay the fine and then receive a revocation letter in the mail. These letters are usually sent several months later and by then it is too late to attempt to reopen the guilty plea. As a result, the only option is to request a hearing in front of the Game Commission.

These hearings are conducted in front of a Game Commission Hearing Officer. The Game Commission’s case is presented by the Game Commission Officer. The individual is allowed to cross examine the officer and then present evidence and testimony of their own. The problem for the individual is they’ve already plead guilty to the citation, so there is no disputing they are guilty. The hearing only allows for the individual to present a case as to mitigating or extenuating circumstances for which the Game Commission may take into consideration in reviewing its decision to revoke.

The hearing officer makes a recommendation to the Game Commission itself and the Game Commission issues a final determination. The Game Commission is under no obligation to accept the hearing officer’s recommendation.

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What does this mean for you? Several things. First, remember your constitutional right to remain silent. As I previously blogged, the Wildlife Conservation Officers are now able to utilize recording devices in the field. Second, do not make statements without legal counsel present. That includes appearing at a Game Commission office to answer questions in circumstances where you did nothing wrong! Third, if you receive a citation, contact a lawyer immediately. There is an opportunity to fight the citation at the Magisterial District Court level and deal with the issue quickly. Fourth, if you have received a letter stating your license was revoked, contact a lawyer to represent you at the hearing you are entitled to at the Game Commission.

Have you been cited for a hunting violation or know someone who has? Be sure to share this article with your friends and family who hunt. The more informed the hunter is, the less likely they are to have their rights violated. You can share by using the buttons below!

Had a negative experience with the Game Commission? Be sure to leave a comment below!

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3 Comments

Filed under Firearms Law, Hunting

3 responses to “Hunting Violation? Think Twice Before Pleading Guilty…

  1. L.M. Freeman

    Important information to heed. I thought it was cheaper and easier to pay a fine than to fight a charge even though I knew I didn’t commit it, and the officer did tell me if I paid the fine everything would go away. Unfortunately 4 years later when applying for a permit for something else I found out I had a “record” because I plead guilty by paying the fine and was being denied my permit. I retained Attorney Joshua Prince to straighten out the permit issue and later after 5 years expired I again retained Attorney Prince to have my record expunged so this bogus charge could no longer be used against me. Had I not spoken to the Game Commission Officers without a lawyer present, the initial charges most likely would have never occurred. A valuable lessen learned the hard way.

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  2. CL Witmer

    I have three questions regarding the PA GC’s compliance with the Fourth Amendment. I understand Bryan Cutler was successful in getting bill 181 passed which restrained the PAGC’s lawful activity with respect to vehicular searches. But how are terms like “reasonable”, and “suspicion” defined? Also, shouldn’t the Fourth Amendment prevent GCO’s from entering private and posted land? Are they permitted to do so?

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  3. Michael

    Hi, this year I was cited by the game commission for not reporting a accidental kill, 1 horn on the deer was slightly broke off and didn’t meet the 1inch rule. The warden told me over the phone before he came to talk to me that he wasn’t going to take my hunting license or any property just give me a small fine, when he arrived at my home I was straight forward and told him I didn’t know that a piece broken off was not legal to count. I tagged and reported the deer as I do every year and did everything by the books, still he gave me a $1,000 dollar fine for unlawful killing/taking of big game. A month later I received a letter in the mail that my license was revoked/suspended for 4 years.

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