Tag Archives: “game commission”

Hunting with a Semiautomatic Firearm in PA? List of approved animals.

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As many of you know, the PA Game Commission voted on the regulations for hunting with semiautomatic rifles. As Attorney Prince previously reported, the Pennsylvania Game Commission voted against semi-automatic hunting for big game.

Which means the list of animals that people are able to hunt is not as large as it was previously thought to be. The Game Commission cited a survey that it randomly sent to 4,000 hunters in which they received over 2,000 responses.

According to this article, there were 2,002 individuals who responded.

The findings of the survey show clear support for hunting furbearers (55 percent support or strongly support), woodchucks (51 percent support or strongly support) and small game (42 percent support or strongly support, and 12 percent neither support nor oppose) with semiautomatic rifles.

For big game, while 28 percent of survey respondents expressed support or strong support for semiautomatic rifles, 64 percent of respondents said they opposed or strongly opposed semiautomatic rifles for big-game hunting, with 52 percent saying they were strongly opposed.

http://www.media.pa.gov/Pages/Game-Commission-Details.aspx?newsid=113

“Small game is defined as: game birds (brant, bobwhite quail, coot, gallinule, geese, grouse, Hungarian partridge, merganser, mourning and Eurasian collared doves, pheasant, rail, snipe, swan, wild ducks and woodcock) and game animals (cottontail rabbit, squirrels, snowshoe hare and woodchuck).

The term furbearer applies to the badger, beaver, bobcat, coyote, fisher, mink, muskrat, opossum, otter, pine martin, raccoon, red or gray fox, striped skunk and weasel.”

Big game includes: Deer, Elk, Black Bear and Turkey.

If you have not already, be sure to contact the Game Commission to express your disappointment in their decision to not allow for semiautomatic rifles to hunt for big game. The Commission stated that if growing support for hunting big game with semiautomatic rifles emerges at some point in the future, they will give consideration to further regulatory changes.

Featured image photo credit: Gunsamerica.com

 

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Governor Signs Bill Allowing Disabled Individuals to Hunt from Motorized Wheelchairs

Yesterday, Governor Wolf signed HB 698 into law. The text of HB 698 can be found here. HB 698 modified both Section 2308 and 2923 of the Game Law.

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HB 698 provides an exception to the general ban on hunting from a vehicle or conveyance of any kind other than that propelled by manpower. Section 2308 previously read:

§ 2308. Unlawful devices and methods.

(a) General rule.–Except as otherwise provided in this title, it is unlawful for any person to hunt or aid, abet, assist or conspire to hunt any game or wildlife through the use of:

(7) A vehicle or conveyance of any kind or its attachment propelled by other than manpower. Nothing in this subsection shall pertain to any of the following:

(i) A motorboat or sailboat if the motor has been completely shut off or sail furled, and the progress thereof has ceased.

HB 698 added the following exception:

(ii) A motorized wheelchair if the person has been issued a permit to hunt under section 2923(a.1) (relating to disabled person permits).

Section 2923 was modified to add the following language:

§ 2923. Disabled person permits.

(a.1) Use of motorized wheelchair.–

(1) Unless further restricted by commission regulation, a lifetime permit to hunt from a motorized wheelchair outside of a vehicle may be issued to a person with permanent disabilities who qualified for a hunting license under Chapter 27 or who possesses a junior resident license under section 2705(2) and who has a permanent or irreversible physical disability and is unable to ambulate and requires a wheelchair<-., WALKER, ONE LEG BRACE OR EXTERNAL PROSTHESIS ABOVE THE KNEE, TWO LEG BRACES OR EXTERNAL PROSTHESES BELOW THE KNEES, TWO CRUTCHES OR TWO CANES FOR MOBILITY.

(2)Permittees shall carry the permit upon their person while hunting. Any person named on this permit may hunt while using a motorized wheelchair and may use the motorized wheelchair to flush or locate game. The firearm may be loaded while the motorized wheelchair is in motion.

Just a note for any readers that may qualify for such a permit, this does not take effect for 60 days. The passage of this bill is excellent news for those who are confined to a wheelchair and will hopefully allow those individuals the ability to enjoy hunting in Pennsylvania’s lush lands.

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Rifle Season and Why You Should Never Speak to the Game Commission

Rifle season for hunters in PA opened on Monday and the violations are already being racked up. Individuals have been contacting our office for representation regarding a number of different violations. Most of which could have been avoided had they not spoken to the Game Commission Officer.

game officer

I previously blogged that you have a 5th Amendment Right not to speak to the Game Commission. Most of the time the hunter puts themselves in a situation where they will be cited by speaking to the Game Commission Officer. I have yet to encounter a client who talked their way out of a citation rather than into one. While the common thought is that an individual would just be subjected to just a fine, that could not be more wrong. A number of these individuals find themselves at risk of having their hunting license revoked the following year. Depending on the violation this can result in an individual losing their hunting privilege for several years.

What are some of the more common hunting violations? Hunting without a license, hunting over bait, and harvesting more than the allocated amount. Additionally, if an individual has not taken the Hunter Safety Education Course in PA and was not issued a hunting license previously from another state, they cannot lawfully obtain a hunting license in PA.

What should you do if you are cited with a hunting violation? Contact an attorney immediately. Our office has experience handling hunting violations and can help you. Pleading guilty to a hunting violation may result in more than just having to a pay a fine. The potential loss of hunting privileges, LTCF revocations and a CLEO refusing to sign NFA forms may all be within the realm of possible fallouts. Additionally, if your hunting license is revoked in PA, that may mean you lose your ability to hunt in other states as Pennsylvania is a signatory to the Interstate Wildlife Violators Compact.

 

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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.

revocation

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.

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

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Opening Day for Antlered Deer in Pennsylvania

Today marks opening day for antlered deer here in Pennsylvania. Hundreds of hunters take to the woods to fill their freezers for the year to come or to find that trophy deer. Every year, individuals are charged with violating the game code.

I previously blogged that the PA Game Commission Officers (GCOs) and Wildlife Conservation Officers (WLCOs) would be allowed to utilize body cameras after taking a course approved by the Pennsylvania State Police. This takes effect on December 31, 2014, which means that come January 1, 2015, GCOs and WLCOs MAY be equipped with the ability to record interactions between themselves and hunters. As deer season doesn’t end until January 24, 2015 this means that there is the potential for an interaction with GCOs and WLCOs wearing body cameras.

What should you do if you are stopped by a GCO or WLCO? Be courteous and polite but do not be intimidated by threats of authority. If you are uncomfortable answering their questions, tell them that you would like to consult with an attorney prior to answering any more questions.

As previously blogged about, Jack Coble was able to successfully challenge his conviction under 34 Pa. C.S. § 2126(a)(6) which makes it unlawful for a person to “refuse to answer, without evasion, upon request of any representative of the commission, any pertinent question pertaining to the killing or wounding of any game or wildlife killed or wounded, or the disposition of the entire carcass or any part thereof,” by asserting it was a violation of his 5th Amendment and Article 1 Section 9 right against self incrimination.

While the court opinion and order were limited to Coble’s particular circumstance, the lack of opposition by the Assistant District Attorney and the lack of intervention by the PA Game Commission and Attorney General’s Office seems to suggest that an individual charged under this subsection could make a similar successful argument. We believe that individuals confronted by GCOs and WLCOs have a constitutional right against self incrimination and as such are entitled to remain silent and/or consult an attorney.

Navigating the complexities of the legal system can be confusing and sometimes even frightening. If you have an interaction with the PA Game Commission this season and want legal representation, don’t hesitate to give us a call anytime, toll free, at 888-313-0416. Prince Law Offices is dedicated to protecting all of your constitutional rights!

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Corbett signs bill granting Conservation Officers use of body cameras

A new development in the Fish and Game code grants Waterway Conservation Officers (WCO), Game Commission Officers (GCO) and Wildlife Conservation Officers (WLCO) (but not their deputies) the ability to wear body cameras in the performance of their official duties. The new law requires that the individual must have received training on the use of body cameras in an approved course by the Pennsylvania State Police.

Waterway Conservation Officers are charged with enforcing the laws of the Commonwealth relating to fish and watercraft with the power to arrest individuals who violate the law. They also have the ability to search and seize, as well as, enter upon land or waterways in the performance of their duties.

Game Commission Officers and Wildlife Conservation Officers are charged with enforcing the laws of the Commonwealth relating to game or wildlife with the power to arrest individuals who violate the law. They also retain the power to search and seize, as well as, enter upon land or water in the performance of their duties.

What does this mean for you? If you have contact with a WCO, GCO or WLCO in the future, there is a high likelihood that they will be recording the interaction between themselves and you. This means that anything you say and/or do will be recorded and could possibly be used against you at a later time if you are charged in a court of law. As a result of the training requirement, the admission of any video or audio recording could provide some interesting avenues for suppression, if the attorney is cognizant of the issue.

Interactions with WCO, GCO or WLCO should be treated in the same manner as an interaction with the police. You, as an individual, still retain your Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and your Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate yourself. As such, you should not consent to any searches, no matter what the officer offers or threatens nor should you make any statements against your self-interest.

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