I’m pleased to report that as of yesterday, the Pennsylvania Game Commission Administrative Offices are attempting to resume operations in respect to hearings for revocation of hunting privileges. So far the Game Commission has been in contact with 3 of my clients about rescheduling hearings.
If you have a pending revocation hearing and do not hear from the Game Commission in the next several days, you should try to contact them. The Game Commission is asking participants to waive their right to an in-person hearing and to conduct the hearing by video conference. I do not have a problem with doing so, as I have found the Game Commission’s hearings to be fair and I have no reason to believe that a hearing by video conference would result in a different outcome.
Delaying the hearing could result in some complications. All revocations of hunting privileges run in whole year periods from July 1 to June 30. Asking for an administrative hearing DOES NOT automatically stop/stay the revocation. In other words, if your revocation is set to begin on July 1, 2020, holding a hearing after July 1 will not result in the revocation being delayed for a year.
I also think it is important to remind hunters that they should find out the revocation consequences of a game law violation BEFORE entering a plea. Under Pennsylvania law, ALL game offenses have a possibility of a revocation of hunting privileges. There are only a handful of game offenses that have mandatory revocations; revocation for all other offenses are left to the discretion of the Game Commission. The game law violation and revocation are two separate procedures.
The game law violation will be determined by the Magisterial District Judge in the area where you are hunting and alleged to have committed the violation. The revocation will be determined by Game Commission Headquarters in Harrisburg.
There is no obligation for anyone to tell you about the potential for revocation before you enter a plea. I’ve had a number of cases where judges or their staff have incorrectly advised people about the possibility of revocation (i.e. that there wouldn’t be one, if they just plead guilty).
A Magisterial District Judge has no say in whether to revoke an individual’s hunting license or the period of revocation. A Game Warden cannot make a deal as to the period of revocation. Game Wardens do get to make a recommendation, but it is ultimately a supervisor in Harrisburg, or the Executive Director acting after review by a hearing officer, that makes the final decision.
While Game Wardens cannot make a deal as to a revocation, they can make a deal as to what game law violations you plead guilty to. If you reach a deal to plead guilty to less serious citations, a lesser length of revocation normally follows. It is therefore important to understand the citations you have been charged with and to try to reach a deal, if you have arguably violated the Game Code.
Making matters more difficult, although the Game Commission does have standard recommendations for revocation as to each type of violation, those standard recommendations are not publicly available. Over the years, I have become aware of the standard recommendations for revocation and can tell you what kind of revocation to expect if you are charged with a game law violation.
It is also important to note that Pennsylvania does have reciprocity with the large majority of other states. Most other states will not allow you to get a hunting license with a revoked Pennsylvania license. Some states, such as Florida, do tie hunting a fishing licenses together. A revocation of a hunting in Pennsylvania can also render you unable to get a fishing license in some states.
Lastly, even if you are guilty of a game law violation, you have the right to ask for a hearing before a hearing officer in Harrisburg. At that hearing, the hearing officer will look at the totality of the circumstances and will consider your record of hunting as well as your overall character. Showing that you are a law abiding citizen who has helped their community and has never had hunting issues before, can lead to a reduced period of revocation.
If you or someone you know is charged with a Game Code violation or are facing revocation of your hunting license, contact us today to discuss your rights!