Florida Fish and Wildlife Violation Levels & Statutory Penalties

The abundant fish and wildlife resources we enjoy here in Florida are closely monitored and protected by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (“FWC”). There are multiple statutes that may be applicable to a violation of FWC rules and they differ in severity and respective punishment language.

Violations of FWC regulations are categorized into 4 separate violation levels, the most serious being a felony criminal charge at Level 4.

Unless otherwise provided by law:

  • F.S.S. 379.401 governs Level 1-4 violations.
  • F.S.S. 379.407 governs Major Violations.

Unless otherwise provided by law, for non-native and captive wildlife:

  • F.S.S. 379.4015 governs Level 1-4 violations.
  • F.S.S. 379.407 governs Major Violations.

Be aware, certain Major Violations do not allow the court to defer or withhold adjudication of guilt and often come with much higher enhancement penalties for stackable violations.

This can be complicated so if you are charged with any level FWC violation in South Florida, speak to Attorney Sando to find how Sando Law, P.A. can help you.

Level 1 Violations (noncriminal infractions)

Level 1 violations are noncriminal infractions and the least serious of the 4 violations levels. They result in the payment of civil fines and require you to appear before a county court unless you admit to being guilty of the charge and pay the civil penalty.

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Paying the civil penalty waives your right to a hearing before the county court to make any legal arguments or challenges in your case.

  1. Rules or orders of the commission relating to the filing of reports or other documents required to be filed by persons who hold any recreational licenses and permits or any alligator licenses and permits issued by the commission.
  2. Rules or orders of the commission relating to quota hunt permits, daily use permits, hunting zone assignments, camping, alcoholic beverages, vehicles, and check stations within wildlife management areas or other areas managed by the commission.
  3. Rules or orders of the commission relating to daily use permits, alcoholic beverages, swimming, possession of firearms, operation of vehicles, and watercraft speed within fish management areas managed by the commission.
  4. Rules or orders of the commission relating to vessel size or specifying motor restrictions on specified water bodies.
  5. Rules or orders of the commission requiring the return of unused CITES tags issued under the Statewide Alligator Harvest Program or the Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program.
  6. Section 379.3003, prohibiting deer hunting unless required clothing is worn.
  7. Section 379.354(1)-(15), providing for recreational licenses to hunt, fish, and trap.
  8. Section 379.3581, providing hunter safety course requirements.
Penalties for first Level 1 violation:

  • a $50 fine
  • the cost of the license or permit

Penalties for a second (or subsequent) identical Level 1 violation within 36 months:

  • a $250 fine
  • the cost of the license or permit

Note: Additional court and license fees may apply.

Level 2 Violations (criminal violation)

Level 2 violations can “stack” which means a violation can either be a 2nd-degree misdemeanor or a 1st-degree misdemeanor based on whether you have any type of prior Level 2 convictions on your record within a certain period of time.

  1. Rules or orders of the commission relating to seasons or time periods for the taking of wildlife, freshwater fish, or saltwater fish.
  2. Rules or orders of the commission establishing bag, possession, or size limits or restricting methods of taking wildlife, freshwater fish, or saltwater fish.
  3. Rules or orders of the commission prohibiting access or otherwise relating to access to wildlife management areas or other areas managed by the commission.
  4. Rules or orders of the commission relating to the feeding of saltwater fish.
  5. Rules or orders of the commission relating to landing requirements for freshwater fish or saltwater fish.
  6. Rules or orders of the commission relating to restricted hunting areas, critical wildlife areas, or bird sanctuaries.
  7. Rules or orders of the commission relating to tagging requirements for wildlife and fur-bearing animals.
  8. Rules or orders of the commission relating to the use of dogs for the taking of wildlife.
  9. Rules or orders of the commission which are not otherwise classified.
  10. Rules or orders of the commission prohibiting the unlawful use of traps, unless otherwise provided by law.
  11. Rules or orders of the commission requiring the maintenance of records relating to alligators.
  12. Rules or orders of the commission requiring the return of unused CITES tags issued under an alligator program other than the Statewide Alligator Harvest Program or the Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program.
  13. All requirements or prohibitions under this chapter which are not otherwise classified.
  14. Section 379.105, prohibiting the intentional harassment of hunters, fishers, or trappers.
  15. Section 379.2421, relating to fishers and equipment.
  16. Section 379.2425, relating to spearfishing.
  17. Section 379.29, prohibiting the contamination of fresh waters.
  18. Section 379.295, prohibiting the use of explosives and other substances or force in fresh waters.
  19. Section 379.3502, prohibiting the loan or transfer of a license or permit and the use of a borrowed or transferred license or permit.
  20. Section 379.3503, prohibiting false statements in an application for a license or permit.
  21. Section 379.3504, prohibiting entering false information on licenses or permits.
  22. Section 379.3511, relating to the sale of hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses and permits by subagents.
  23. Section 379.357(3), prohibiting the taking, killing, or possession of tarpon without purchasing a tarpon tag.
  24. Section 379.363, relating to freshwater fish dealer licenses.
  25. Section 379.364, relating to fur and hide dealer licenses.
  26. Section 379.365(2)(b), prohibiting the theft of stone crab trap contents or trap gear.
  27. Section 379.366(4)(b), prohibiting the theft of blue crab trap contents or trap gear.
  28. Section 379.3671(2)(c), except s. 379.3671(2)(c)5., prohibiting the theft of spiny lobster trap contents or trap gear.
  29. Section 379.3751, relating to licenses for the taking and possession of alligators.
  30. Section 379.3752, relating to tagging requirements for alligators and hides.
  31. Section 379.413, prohibiting the unlawful taking of bonefish.

Penalties for first Level 2 violation:

  • Classified as a 2nd-degree misdemeanor
    • up to 60 days in jail
    • up to a $500 fine

Penalties for second Level 2 violation within 36 months:

  • Classified as a 1st-degree misdemeanor
    • up to 365 days in jail
    • up to a $1,000 fine (not less than $250)

Penalties for third Level 2 violation within 5 years:

  • Classified as a 1st-degree misdemeanor
    • up to 365 days in jail
    • up to a $1,000 fine (not less than $500)
    • suspension of any recreational license or permit for 1 year

Penalties for fourth (or subsequent) Level 2 violation within 10 years:

  • Classified as a 1st-degree misdemeanor
    • up to 365 days in jail
    • up to a $1,000 fine (not less than $750)
    • suspension of any recreational license or permit for 3 years

Level 3 Violations (criminal violation)

Level 3 violations can also “stack” but all Level 3 violations are considered 1st-degree misdemeanors, only with enhanced penalties based on whether you have any type of prior Level 3 convictions on your record within a certain period of time.

  1. Rules or orders of the commission prohibiting the sale of saltwater fish.
  2. Rules or orders of the commission prohibiting the illegal importation or possession of exotic marine plants or animals.
  3. Section 379.28, prohibiting the importation of freshwater fish.
  4. Section 379.3014, prohibiting the illegal sale or possession of alligators.
  5. Section 379.354(17), prohibiting the taking of game, freshwater fish, or saltwater fish while a required license is suspended or revoked.
  6. Section 379.357(4), prohibiting the sale, transfer, or purchase of tarpon.
  7. Section 379.404(1), (3), and (6), prohibiting the illegal taking and possession of deer and wild turkey.
  8. Section 379.4041(1), prohibiting the illegal taking and possession of bears.
  9. Section 379.406, prohibiting the possession and transportation of commercial quantities of freshwater game fish.
  10. Section 379.407(2), establishing major violations.
  11. Section 379.407(4), prohibiting the possession of certain finfish in excess of recreational daily bag limits.
Penalties for first Level 3 violation:

  • Classified as a 1st-degree misdemeanor
    • up to 365 days in jail
    • up to a $1,000 fine
    • certain violations can lead to the suspension of a recreational license or permit for 3 years

Penalties for a second (or subsequent) Level 3 violation within 10 years:

  • Classified as a 1st-degree misdemeanor
    • up to 365 days in jail
    • up to a $1,000 fine (not less than $750)
    • suspension of any recreational license or permit for 3 years
    • certain violations can lead to the permanent ineligibility of a recreational license or permit.

Note: Violations of s. 379.354(17) governing suspended or revoked license will also include:

  • a $1000 fine
  • suspension of any recreational license or permit for 5 years

Level 4 Violations (criminal violation)

Level 4 violations are the most serious but do not “stack” – every Level 4 violation is considered a 3rd-degree felony punishable with the same penalties whether it is your first Level 4 violation or any type of subsequent Level 4 violation.

  1. Section 379.354(16), prohibiting the making, forging, counterfeiting, or reproduction of a recreational license or the possession of same without authorization from the commission.
  2. Section 379.365(2)(c), prohibiting criminal activities relating to the taking of stone crabs.
  3. Section 379.366(4)(c), prohibiting criminal activities relating to the taking and harvesting of blue crabs.
  4. Section 379.367(4), prohibiting the willful molestation of spiny lobster gear.
  5. Section 379.3671(2)(c)5., prohibiting the unlawful reproduction, possession, sale, trade, or barter of spiny lobster trap tags or certificates.
  6. Section 379.404(5), prohibiting the sale of illegally taken deer or wild turkey.
  7. Section 379.4041(2), prohibiting the sale of illegally taken bears.
  8. .Section 379.405, prohibiting the molestation or theft of freshwater fishing gear.
  9. Section 379.409, prohibiting the unlawful killing, injuring, possessing, or capturing of alligators or other crocodilia or their eggs.
  10. Section 379.411, prohibiting the intentional killing or wounding of any species designated as endangered, threatened, or of special concern.
  11. Section 379.4115, prohibiting the killing of any Florida or wild panther.
Penalties for first (or subsequent) Level 4 violation:

  • Classified as a 3rd-degree felony
    • up to 5 years in prison
    • up to a $5,000 fine

What should you do if you are hit with any FWC violation?

If you are accused of any level of FWC violation, you want the right attorney. This is not your standard area of criminal defense practice. Take your time and choose the right lawyer.

If you have come to Sando Law, P.A. for assistance with a fish and wildlife case, you have found the right place. As a former special prosecutor for Florida fish and wildlife cases and the recipient of both the FWC’s Prosecutor of the Year Award and the North Palm Coastal Conservation Association’s Prosecutor of the Year Award, Attorney Sando has the experience and knowledge in this area of the law that is unmatched.

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