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FWC Level Three Violations

People are often surprised to learn violations of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) rules can be charged as criminal offenses. FWC Level III violations are on the more serious end - first-degree misdemeanors, punishable by up to one year in jail, one year of probation, and up to $1,000 in fines. FWC can levy additional fines and penalties for second or subsequent convictions, as well as for certain offenses resulting in substantial adverse impact or threats to human safety.

Level III violations often stem from lack of understanding of Florida rules and regulations pertaining to fishing, hunting, boating, and handling of wildlife. Unfortunately, that's not a viable defense in court. We can help. 

Remember that an allegation is not a conviction. Even if there's extensive evidence against you, there are almost always ways to mitigate the fallout. A Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer with experience handling FWC violation cases can often formulate a strong defense strategy. We advocate for dismissed charges, reduced charges, lower penalties, and protection of your FWC licenses and permits, both recreational and commercial. 

The Role of FWC Law Enforcement

The FWC’s law enforcement division is broadly tasked with protecting Florida’s natural resources - and people - with law enforcement that is both proactive and responsive. It has more than 1,000 employees (most sworn officers) responsible to protect natural resources and environments and promote safe boating, clean water, and public safety. 

They partner with other law enforcement agencies, but also have their own special divisions and equipment - K-9 units, special ops group, offshore patrol vessels, dive team, aviation unit, and emergency response protocol. 

Some have made the mistake of assuming encounters with FWC officers aren’t that big of a deal because they “aren’t real cops.” This is 100% false. Our Broward FWC Violation Defense Attorneys always urge people during FWC encounters to conduct themselves as they would with any other law enforcement agency. That means keeping a calm and polite demeanor while also exercising caution with your words. Presume that whatever you do or say is being recorded and could potentially be used against you in a criminal courtroom. Resist any temptation to over explain. If you are arrested for a Level III violation, resolve to let your lawyer do the talking for you - later. 

Examples of FWC Level III Violations

FWC Level Three Violations are largely spelled out in F.S. 379.401(3) and F.S. 379.4015(3). These are FWC rules/orders relating to:

  • The unlawful sale of saltwater fish.
  • The illegal import or possession of exotic marine plants or animals.
  • Importing freshwater fish, per F.S. 379.28.
  • Illegal sale or possession of alligators or alligator skins, per F.S. 379.3014.
  • Taking game or fish (fresh or saltwater) while a required license is revoked or suspended, per F.S. 379.354.
  • Unlawfully selling, transferring, or buying tarpon, per F.S. 379.357.
  • Unlawfully taking and possessing a deer or wild turkey, per F.S. 379.404.
  • Unlawfully taking or possessing bears, per F.S. 379.4041.
  • Possessing and transporting commercial quantities of freshwater game fish, per F.S. 379.406.
  • Possessing certain finfish in excess of the recreational daily bag limits, as outlined in F.S. 379.407.
  • Housing wildlife in an unsafe manner when violation results in escape of Class I wildlife or venomous reptile.
  • Violation of captive wildlife rules that results in serious bodily injury to another person by the captive wildlife that consists of a physical condition creating substantial risk of death, serious disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of a major bodily function.
  • Use of gasoline or other chemical or gaseous substances on wildlife.
  • Unlawfully releasing wildlife for which only conditional possession is allowed.
  • Knowingly entering false information on an application for license/permit to possess wildlife in captivity. 
  • Illegally importing and possessing non-native marine plants and animals. 
  • Illegally importing, possessing, or releasing fish/wildlife for which possession is prohibited.
  • Illegally importing non-native wildlife, per F.S. 379.231.
  • Escape or release of non-native reptiles of concern, per F.S. 379.305.

Other Level III Violations are in F.S. 379.407, which prohibits possessing certain finfish in excess of recreational daily bag limits. 

A first-time FWC Level Three violation is a first-degree misdemeanor, with penalties of up to one year in jail.If you have prior offenses, you could also be facing a minimum mandatory fine of $750 (up to $1,000) and revocation of all your FWC licenses and/or permits anywhere from 1-5 years or even permanently. 

The severity of the fines and penalties ultimately imposed often depends on the impact of your actions - and FWC costs in mitigating the damage. You may face a particularly unforgiving court if your actions were financially motivated. Also, for purposes of “stacking offenses” (i.e., enhancing penalties due to prior convictions), a “conviction” is any judicial disposition other than acquittal or dismissal. That’s why fighting for dismissal or acquittal (particularly of the most serious charges) will always be our top priority. 

Something else to note: There is actually incentive to report people on Level III violations to the FWC. The reward for reporting someone on an FWC Level III violation (leading to an arrest) is $500. The most commonly reported Level III FWC violations are illegal sale or possession of alligators, unlawful taking of a quantity of saltwater species or taking with prohibited gear, unlawful possession,transportation, or sale of commercial quantities of game, saltwater fish and freshwater fish, illegal taking or possession of deer or wild turkey, and falsification of applicant information for possession of captive wildlife. 

If you are arrested for a Level Three FWC Violation, our dedicated Broward criminal defense lawyers will fight to protect your freedom, your reputation, and your livelihood.

If you have been arrested in South Florida for an FWC violation, call The Ansara Law Firm in Fort Lauderdale today for your free initial consultation at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach.

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