Are Department of Natural Resources Hunting and Fishing Violations Criminal Offenses?

hunting and fishing

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is responsible for maintaining and protecting natural resources such as state parks, forests, and recreation areas. Their jurisdiction includes enforcing hunting and fishing violations. Violations of Michigan DNR hunting and fishing regulations are misdemeanor crimes that carry the potential for jail time and costly fines, as well as the loss of your ability to hunt or fish.

Penalties for Violations of Michigan Hunting or Fishing Regulations

Depending on the nature of the infraction, violation of a Michigan hunting or fishing regulation can carry significant fines ranging from $50 to $3,500, and penalties that include up to 180 days in jail for the most severe offenses.

Penalties for violation of Michigan DNR regulations include: Violations of Michigan DNR regulations are criminal cases, and the judge has considerable discretion when deciding what penalty to impose.

Violations, Fines and Jail Times

  • Permit violations: out of season, bag limits, shooting hours, illegal methods
    • $50 to $500
    • Up to 90 days
  • Illegally taking a deer, bear, or wild turkey
    • $200 to $3,500, plus restitution and revocation of hunting privileges and forfeiture of the firearm or bow
    • 5 to 90 days
  • Carrying a firearm while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
    • $500
    • Up to 93 days
  • Multiple convictions (3 within the 5 preceding years)
    • $500 to $2,000
    • Up to 180 days

In addition to fines and potential jail time, someone convicted of violating a hunting or fishing regulation could face professional discipline or revocation of a security clearance. For people who work in occupations that require professional licensure or a security clearance, a conviction for violation of a DNR regulation could lead to professional discipline or denial or revocation of a security clearance.

Finally, conviction for violation of a DNR regulation can result in loss of your ability to hunt or fish, often for many years.

How to Avoid Being Charged with a DNR Violation

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to avoid prosecution for a DNR violation. By taking a few simple and proactive steps, you can protect yourself and avoid being charged with violating a hunting or fishing regulation.

Educate Yourself

Begin each hunting or fishing season by learning about any changes to the law that might impact you. Each year, when you apply for your hunting or fishing license, review hunting and fishing digests for updates on applicable laws. These are often available in a condensed form that provides an overview of the current law and changes you should be aware of. If you are in need of a more extensive explanation, you can find the full text of the applicable law online. There are even classes available if you want to take extra time to learn the right way to hunt or fish, and how to stay in compliance with applicable Michigan regulations.

Ensure You Are Properly Licensed

If you plan to hunt or fish, be sure that you have the proper license. Ignorance of the law is never an excuse, and Michigan DNR officials are unlikely to let you off with a warning, even if you simply purchased the wrong type of license.

Do Not Bring Attention to Yourself

Avoid driving violations and boating violations. Speeding, driving with a broken taillight, Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), discharge of a gun near a neighbor’s property, loud music, or open container violations are likely to draw attention to yourself. Once a DNR official starts investigating you for one offense, they will be unlikely to ignore other offenses.

Avoid Bragging on Social Media

DNR officials are known to monitor social media accounts, looking for people who brag about their most recent exploits. If you are posting on social media bragging about your most recent trophy deer or showing photos of a beautiful fish, DNR officials may verify that you are properly licensed.

Know Your Rights

If you are stopped by a DNR official, you are under no obligation to tell on yourself. Just like in any criminal investigation, you have a 5th amendment right against self-incrimination. While this does not mean that you can lie, it does mean that you are not obligated to answer any questions or provide information that could be used to convict you. You can also refuse to consent to a search of your property and request to speak to an attorney.

You should not consent to a search of your home or your vehicle. If a DNR official requests your permission to search your property, you should politely yet clearly state that you do not consent to the search. Even if a search does occur without your permission, do not try to obstruct the law enforcement official from performing the search. Instead, let your lawyer address the illegality of the search in court with a judge.

In any interaction with law enforcement, including DNR officials, remember that anything you say can and will be used against you. If you are being questioned, you have the right to remain silent and request to speak to an attorney.

Be Polite and Courteous, Even If You Disagree

Even as you assert your rights, you should do so in a way that is polite, respectful, and courteous. Do not become angry, belligerent, or argumentative with the DNR official. In a prosecution for violation of a hunting or fishing regulation, prosecutors give significant deference to DNR agents. Being polite and respectful, even if you disagree with a search or a particular tactic that is being used, can go a long way towards successfully resolving your case.

Elmen Legal: Aggressive Criminal Defense Attorney Based in Ann Arbor, Michigan

If you have been charged with violating a Michigan hunting or fishing regulation, hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney can help minimize the severity of the penalties imposed, or even result in the case being dismissed.

Michigan criminal defense attorney Robert Elmen represents people who have been accused of crimes in and around Ann Arbor, and throughout southwest Michigan. He knows that being accused of committing a crime is a stressful experience, and he works hard to minimize the stress that comes with any criminal charge.

Robert will work hard to take care of you as an individual. He will thoroughly investigate the charges against you, advise you on the potential consequences of a conviction, and fight hard to have the charges against you reduced or the case dismissed.

Elmen Legal represents people in Ann Arbor, Saline, Pittsfield Township, Chelsea, or Ypsilanti, in Washtenaw, Wayne, Monroe, Lenawee, Hillsdale, Jackson, Ingham, Livingston, and Oakland Counties.

If you have been charged with violation of a Michigan hunting or fishing regulation, contact Elmen Legal today to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your situation and how Robert can help.