Lacey Act Wildlife Defense Lawyer
Rick Coad is a leading federal wildlife defense lawyer in Wisconsin and the Midwest.
Rick Coad is widely regarded as one of the best Lacey Act defense attorneys in the Midwest. No other defense lawyer understands the Lacey Act better, and no other defense lawyer gets better results for their clients. Rick has successfully defended clients in cases in every federal district court in Wisconsin, and in federal courts in Michigan, Oklahoma, and North Dakota, among others. If you are facing an investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Rick will provide your best defense. He has obtained excellent results for his clients in a wide variety of circumstances, and is respected by federal prosecutors and the USFWS agents alike.
The two most common wildlife charges filed in federal court are violations of the Lacey Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Both carry significant penalties, including felony and misdemeanor provisions. Rick Coad has lent his expertise in defending individuals and corporations against these charges.
The Lacey Act (16 U.S.C. Sections 3372 & 3373) is a federal wildlife protection law. The Lacey Act makes it a crime to knowingly sell, ship, or receive in interstate commerce wildlife that was taken in violation of state wildlife regulations. Because the Lacey Act requires the government to prove both a violation of a state, tribal, or federal hunting or fishing regulation, and the knowing sale of that illegally taken wildlife in interstate or foreign commerce, it provides several lines of defense. It is critical for you to have a defense lawyer who understands the subtleties of the law and how to use it to your advantage. The law also provides for misdemeanor and civil violations as alternatives to felony charges, which is rare in federal court. Rick Coad understands the law and how to best defend his clients against these charges.
Similarly, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16 U.S.C. Sections 703-712) is a federal wildlife law that protects certain species of birds and waterfowl. It is key for an attorney to understand both federal court, which is very different than state court, and the underlying state and federal hunting regulations that serve as the basis for these charges.
If you have been contacted by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, or a state warden, or if you have a Lacey Act case, contact us at our Madison, WI office for help.
Lacey Act Facts and FAQs.
What is the Lacey Act?
The Lacey Act was enacted into law in 1900. It prohibits the trade of wildlife, fish and plants that were taken, transported, possessed or sold in violation of any federal, state, tribal or foreign law. The original act was intended to protect against the over-hunting of our nation’s game and wild birds that led to the extinction of many species, and endangered many, many more.
What does the Lacey Act Protect?
Over the last one hundred years, the Lacey Act’s protections have been expanded to protect everything from bears, to trees, to fish. In combination with our own endangered species act, and CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species), the Lacey Act is used to prosecute a wide range of wildlife violations in our federal courts. Here at Coad Law, we have defended clients accused of Lacey Act violations involving bears, deer, mountain lions, ducks, geese, hawks, bait fish, Great Lakes’ fish like trout, sturgeon and sturgeon roe, Galapagos giant tortoises, and even ginseng.
Federal District Court Green Bay (2022)
Our client, who emigrated from Russia, liked caviar, as many Russians do. There is a very limited sturgeon season in Wisconsin. But here in the United States, and specifically in the Great Lakes and Wisconsin, it is illegal to harvest the roe (fish eggs) of sturgeon, which are used to make caviar. Unfortunately, our client traveled to Wisconsin to purchase sturgeon eggs from legally caught sturgeon. The federal government prosecuted him and argued that he knew it was illegal to purchase the roe. Rick Coad convinced the government that it could not meet that burden of proof, and that a fair result could be reached without a felony conviction. Instead, Rick negotiated a misdemeanor violation of the Lacey Act, which requires the government to prove that in the exercise of due care the defendant should have known it was illegal to purchase the roe. The client was fined, but the district court judge agreed that no jail or even term of probation was necessary.
Federal Court Oklahoma City (2021)
Our client was charged with smuggling wildlife in federal district court in violation of the Lacey Act and CITES. Specifically, he was charged with stealing the eggs of captive Galapagos giant tortoises, and then shipping the hatchlings to a wildlife dealer in the United States without the authority to do so. The case was investigated by the Department of Justice’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division in Washington D.C. Despite the aggressive prosecution by the federal government, Rick Coad was able to negotiate and successfully argue for a sentence of probation without any prison time, despite the federal sentencing guidelines calling for a significant prison sentence. Rick has expertly defended many Lacey Act and wildlife cases in federal district courts across the country.
Federal Court - Western District of Michigan (2019)
Coad Law’s client is a leading wholesale exporter of fish and roe from the Great Lakes region. In a vast undercover investigation throughout the Great Lakes region aimed at curbing overfishing of certain species by native tribes in the region, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service targeted fish buyers. Unfortunately, the client purchased perch and walleye that were taken in violation of tribal regulations. The government threatened to charge the client with multiple felony violations of the Lacey Act, restitution in excess of $1 million and a term in prison. All of the other fish wholesalers caught up in the investigation were convicted to a term of imprisonment. Through a lengthy and skilled negotiation with the government, and presenting compelling sentencing arguments to the federal court, Attorney Coad achieved a result for the client of a term of probation, and a fine far below what the government threatened. The client’s business reputation, its critical line of credit, and its business operations remained intact, and continues on today as a valuable business in its region.
Federal Court – Eastern District of Wisconsin, Green Bay, WI (2017)
The client was the subject of a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service undercover investigation into violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Lacey Act. He was a guide for waterfowl hunts. The government threatened prosecution for multiple felony violations for “group bagging” of ducks on several hunts. Prior to the government issuing any charges, Attorney Coad successfully negotiated a misdemeanor violation of the Lacey Act. The client paid a fine, retained his ability to serve as a guide, and was not subject to any supervision.
Federal Court – Western District of Wisconsin, Madison, WI (2016)
Another client who served as a guide in the western part of Wisconsin was also the subject of a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service undercover investigation into violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Lacey Act. He also was a guide for waterfowl hunts. The government, through the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Madison, also threatened prosecution for multiple felony violations for “group bagging” of ducks on several hunts. Prior to the government issuing any charges, Attorney Coad successfully negotiated a misdemeanor violation of the Lacey Act. The client paid a fine, retained his ability to serve as a guide, and was not subject to any supervision.
Federal Court – Eastern District of Wisconsin, Green Bay, WI (2013)
The client was charged with several felony violations of the Lacey Act – a federal wildlife protection law – and making a false statement to a federal agent (18 U.S.C. Section 1001). The Lacey Act makes it a crime to knowingly sell, ship, or receive in interstate commerce wildlife that was taken in violation of state wildlife regulations. In this instance, the government believed that the client had aided and abetted two illegally guided bear hunts, and then later lied about the hunts to an agent of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. On the eve of trial, the government agreed to dismiss all of the felonies and allow the client to plead guilty to two misdemeanor violations of the Lacey Act. At sentencing, the government argued for a prison sentence. Attorney Coad argued for a term of probation without jail, and the court agreed.