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FWC Endangered & Protected Species Violations


Florida takes seriously the protection of threatened and endangered species. If you’re arrested in Broward County for violating FWC imperiled species laws, you will be facing the possibility of steep fines, jail or prison time, loss of certain civil rights, significant damage to your reputation and a permanent stain on your public record. You will need a skilled Fort Lauderdale FWC violations defense lawyer to help you navigate the legal waters – and hopefully avoid the most stringent penalties associated with these crimes. 

Florida is considered one of the most biodiverse states in the U.S., with more than 4,000 identified animal species – many of those found nowhere else but here. 

Florida Endangered and Threatened Species

Florida also has more endangered and threatened species than any other continental state in the U.S. Florida endangered and threatened species are updated often, but among those identified in a recent list: 

  • Atlantic sturgeon
  • Giant manta ray
  • American alligator
  • American crocodile
  • Gopher tortoise
  • Hawksbill sea turtle
  • Loggerhead sea turtle
  • Leatherback sea turtle
  • Florida burrowing owl
  • Florida sandhill crane
  • Roseate spoonbill
  • Wood stork
  • Whooping crane
  • Florida panther
  • Gray wolf
  • Finback whale
  • Key deer
  • Lower Keys rabbit
  • Red wolf
  • Florida manatee
  • Black Creek crayfish
  • Boulder star coral

Authorities have a valid and vested interest in protecting Florida wildlife - but an accusation doesn’t equal conviction. Regardless of the circumstances, these violations can haunt you for years down the road if you are convicted. It’s always in your best interest to hire a skilled criminal defense lawyer. 

Statutes Protecting Endangered Species in Florida 

Some of the laws that protect threatened or endangered wildlife in Florida include:

  • 16 U.S.C.§ 1531, U.S. Endangered Species Act. This federal law aims to protect threatened or endangered animals, plants, and habitats that are considered high risk or at risk for extinction. This law limits and/or prohibits the import/export, sale, possession, transport, delivery, receipt, etc. of certain species into or out of the U.S. or between states (with limited exemptions for those with appropriate licensing/permitting). It protects certain marine mammals in federal waters, and bars capturing, harming, or killing certain protected species in any U.S. state. Individuals can face both civil and criminal sanctions for violating these federal statutes, with the most serious penalties including up to $50,000 in fines and 1 year in jail. Per F.S. 379.23, the State of Florida gives the U.S. concurrent jurisdiction over lands for purposes that include protecting fish and wildlife. 
  • F.S. 379.2291, Endangered and Threatened Species Act. This state-level Florida law defines what it means for a species to be threatened or endangered and outlines the responsibility of the Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to raise public awareness and enforce protection statutes and work with other state agencies on related policy.
  • F.S. 379.411. This Florida law prohibits the intentional wounding or killing of any fish or wildlife species designated as endangered or threatened. It also outlaws the intentional destruction of the eggs or nests of any such species. To do so is considered an FWC Level Four violation per F.S. 379.401, which is generally a third-degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison.


In addition to these, there may be specific-specific rules regarding how to interact with them and in what circumstances harming or killing may be lawful. 

Some examples of these species-specific rules in Florida: 

  • Alligators. It’s generally a Level Four Violation/third-degree felony to hurt or kill an alligator (or any crocodilian) unless it is threatening you or someone else, per F.S. 379.409. F.S. 372.667 prohibits feeding or enticing alligators - a Level Two Violation/second-degree misdemeanor. However, alligator hunting is allowed with proper licenses and permits during state- and county-wide designated hunts. In Broward, alligator hunts are held in the Rotenberger Wildlife Management Area. 
  • Manatees. Manatees are protected by numerous federal and Florida laws, which make it unlawful to feed, harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, annoy, or molest them. If you’re convicted under state law, you face up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Also, any boat, motorized vehicle, gun, or aircraft of any kind used to harm a manatee can be subject to forfeiture upon conviction, per F.S. 379.2431(2).  Violate federal manatee laws, and you may be facing up to 1 year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
  • Sea turtles. Marine turtles are protected under F.S. 379.2431. There are also a number of counties and cities with additional sea turtle protections. Unless you are properly licensed/permitted (usually scientists or members of conservation organizations), it is unlawful to take or disturb a sea turtle nest. You could face a misdemeanor or felony, depending on how many eggs or hatchlings were disturbed, harmed, taken, or destroyed. 
  • Atlantic sturgeon. This is one of seven species of sturgeon in North America, inhabiting both freshwater and saltwater, depending on their life cycle. They can reach up to 14 feet in length, weigh over 800 pounds and leap up to 9 feet in the air. Unfortunately, they’re also slow breeders and they’ve been substantially overfished in recent years. Per F.S. 379.407, unlawfully taking, harvesting, or possessing an Atlantic sturgeon (first offense) is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and/or a $100-$500 fine (with more serious penalties for commercial quantities and/or subsequent offenses).
Hire a Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyer

FWC violations can be very complex, and not every criminal defense lawyer is equipped to easily navigate these cases. Yet these charges can carry substantial consequences,particularly if you’re accused of wrongdoing involving an endangered or protected species. 

Having an experienced defense attorney knowledgeable about how these offenses are prosecuted and which defense strategies may be most effective is imperative. No matter what evidence is against you, there are almost always ways in which we can mitigate the adverse impact to your life. 

If you have been cited or arrested in Broward County for an FWC violation, call The Ansara Law Firm in Fort Lauderdale today for your free initial consultation at (954) 761-4011. 

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