Lacey Act FAQ

Areas of Practice

Answering Your Questions About the Lacey Act

Despite the publicity and media spectacle surrounding the trade of exotic animals, there is nothing glamorous about facing federal charges involving the illegal acquisition or transportation of wildlife. If you face charges under The Lacey Act, it is crucial to have an attorney on your side with the skills, knowledge and experience to answer your questions and pursue an outcome that limits your exposure to criminal and civil penalties. Read on for answers to common questions we receive about The Lacey Act.

“What is The Lacey Act?”

The Lacey Act (16 U.S.C. Sections 3372 and 3373) is a federal wildlife protection law that makes it a criminal act to knowingly sell, ship, or receive wildlife across state or foreign lines that was taken in violation of wildlife regulations. “Knowingly” is the key to mounting a defense, as the prosecution must prove that someone knew that the wildlife was illegally obtained, and then also knowingly transported that wildlife in interstate or foreign commerce.

“What are the penalties of a Lacey Act conviction?”

Being convicted of knowingly violating The Lacey Act can result in criminal penalties of up to five years in prison and a fine as high as $250,000 for individuals ($500,000 for organizations).

“Are there any other laws similar to The Lacey Act?”

Besides The Lacey Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act results in the most federal prosecutions.

“Does violating The Lacey Act result in felony charges?”

The Lacey Act provides for misdemeanor and civil violations as alternatives to felony charges depending on the government’s level of proof on a defendant’s knowledge and intent. In order to prove a felony, the government must prove the defendant knew the wildlife was taken in violation of a regulation, whereas to prove a misdemeanor, the government need only prove that through the exercise of due care a defendant should have known the wildlife was taken in violation of a regulation. It is crucial to have an experienced attorney who understands what the government must prove and who understands how to persuade the government to mitigate the exposure you face.

“When do I need legal representation?”

You need representation right now if you are in the federal government’s crosshairs. Federal prosecutors and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service vigorously prosecute Lacey Act violations. You need someone working just as hard to prevent charges, reduce charges or achieve an acquittal. Call 608-661-8080 now to schedule a consultation.

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