Florida wildlife enjoys protections against unlawful hunting and possession, also called poaching. Depending on the species and the quantity of animals taken, the charges that go with these offenses can carry severe penalties. If you have been charged with a criminal act of killing, possession, or unlawful harvesting of any animal in Florida, it is in your best interest to immediately reach out to an experienced West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer at once to avoid unnecessary and overly harsh punishment.
Multi-Year Sting Operation Charges Nine in Criminal Conspiracy
Nine men were recently arrested after one of Florida’s largest wildlife sting operations (Operation Alligator Thief) to undercover criminal conspiracy to poach alligators and other wildlife. The men face a total of 44 felony charges, including possessing and killing a protected wildlife species, according to National Geographic. Offenses and criminal actions that these men face include the following, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:
- Unlawful possession of more than 10,000 illegally harvested alligator eggs;
- Unlawful possession of alligators;
- Unlawful alligator egg harvesting;
- Interstate transportation of alligator eggs and hatchlings
- Unlawful killing (and cooking) of a White Ibis, which is a protected species;
- Conspiracy to commit racketeering;
- Scheme to defraud;
- Dealing in stolen property; and
Is Hunting an Alligator Ever Legal?
The defendants allegedly caught wild alligators and collected eggs and hatchlings to illegally launder through Florida alligator farms. There are over 90 licensed alligator farms in Florida that earn $7.6 million for the state annually. These legal farms sell alligator hides and meat across the South. Additionally, farms charge customers who wish to hunt an alligator between $1,500 and $12,000 per alligator, depending on the size. A public hunt is held annually in Florida in specified areas between August 15th to November 1st, and hunting an alligator is generally illegal outside of those designated places and times. Violations of this law, as well as others that pertain to the unlawful collection or unlawful killing of certain Florida animals, can be tried as a third-degree felony, per animal, according to Florida statute 379.401. Other levels four violations of this statute include:
- Counterfeiting recreational licenses;
Unlawful taking of stone crabs;
- Unlawful harvesting of blue crabs;
Willful molestation of spiny lobster gear;
- Unlawful sale of illegally taken wild turkey or deer;
- Unlawful possession or sale of spiny lobster trap tags or certifications;
- Unlawful killing, injuring, possessing, or capturing of alligators or other Crocodilia or their eggs;
- Intentional killing or wounding of any endangered, threatened, or species of special concern; and
- Killing of any Florida or wild panther.
Call a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney Today for Help
Unlawful killing, possession, or collection of alligators, their eggs, or a large variety of other species can result in serious third or second-degree felonies. Racketeering and other criminal conspiracy acts can be charged as first-degree felonies. If you are under investigation or have been arrested, call a West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney with the Skier Law Firm today at (561) 220-3355