Public crimes

Fish and Wildlife Violations

The lawyers at Ashbach Law Offices, LLC provide aggressive, strong defense for those charged with Fish and Wildlife allegations throughout Skagit, Snohomish, King and Whatcom Counties. Our goal is to aggressively protect you, your family and your interests from the prosecution, saving jail time, licenses, occupations and reputations. With offices in Marysville and Mill Creek, Washington, we are available to meet you discuss your case. We help good people in bad situations. Let us help you.

In General


This section deals with the most commonly-seen scenarios and criminal allegations under the Enforcement Code. These include Loaded Rifle or Shotgun in Vehicle, Spotlighting Big Game, Unlawful Hunting of Big Game, Unlawful Hunting of Wild Birds, Unlawful Recreational Fishing First Degree, Unlawful Recreational Fishing Second Degree, Unlawful Trapping, and Violating a Suspension or Revocation order.

There are over 60 individual crimes listed under the Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Code in Washington State. The seriousness level of these charges ranges from Simple Misdemeanors, to Gross Misdemeanors to Felonies. For criminal allegations involving the unlawful taking or possession of animals, in general each animal possessed is chargeable as a separate offense.

Suspensions as a Result of Conviction


Many charges carry a mandatory hunting and/or fishing license revocation upon conviction, but all charges in this chapter carry the possibility of license suspension or revocation at the department’s discretion. Suspensions can range from short periods of time, to two years (such as Unlawful Hunting of Wild Birds), to ten years (Spotlighting Big Game), to permanent (violating an order previously revoking a license suspension or revocation). There is no right to seek reinstatement of privileges from the department during a period of court-ordered suspension.

If an existing license, tag, stamp or other permit is voided and revoked as a result of a conviction, the department is not required to issue any refunds for costs, fees or money paid for the license.

Loaded Rifle or Shotgun in Vehicle – or Unlawful Use


The Unlawful Possession statute makes it a crime to transport, convey or possess a loaded rifle or shotgun in a motor vehicle, or upon an off-road vehicle (such as strapped to a four-wheeler).

Unlawful Use of a Loaded Firearm is applicable for situations where a person negligently discharges a firearm from, across or along the maintained portion of a public highway, OR discharges a firearm from a moving motor vehicle or moving off-road vehicle.

Both of these criminal allegations are Simple Misdemeanors, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1000 fine.

These statutes do not apply if the person possesses a disabled-hunter’s permit and complies with rules for hunters with disabilities or if any discharge of a firearm is done from a vehicle that is not parked on or beside a maintained portion of a public road.

Spotlighting Big Game


“Big Game” is limited to the following animals: black bear, blacktail deer, caribou, cougar (or mountain lion), elk, grizzly bear, moose, mountain goat, mountain sheep, mule deer, pronghorn antelope and whitetail deer.

Spotlighting in general is hunting big game with the aid of a spotlight, artificial light or night vision while in possession or control of a firearm, bow and cross or cross bow.

Spotlighting Big Game is either a Gross Misdemeanor or Class C Felony. Spotlighting Big Game Second Degree is a Gross Misdemeanor. Conviction requires a revocation of all hunting licenses and tags for two years. Spotlighting Big Game First Degree may be charged if a person has a prior Big Game conviction within 10 years of the current alleged offense. If a person were convicted of the Class C Felony, the department is required to suspend all privileges to hunt wildlife for 10 years.

Unlawful Hunting of Big Game


Like Spotlighting Big Game, this statute is split into two Degrees. Unlawful Hunting of Big Game is the hunting for, or taking of, big game without all required licenses, tags and permits, OR violating any rules regarding seasons, possession limits or geographical boundaries.

Unlawful Hunting of Big Game Second Degree is simple violation of the statute and is punishable as a Gross Misdemeanor.

However, if the person alleged to have committed this crime has a prior conviction within five years, or has in his or her possession three or more big game animals at the time of the violation, the appropriate charge is Unlawful Hunting of Big Game First Degree, a Class C Felony.

Unlawful Hunting of Wild Birds


Unlawful Hunting of Wild Birds in general relates to possession more than the limit of wild birds. Neither is a Felony.

Unlawful Hunting of Wild Birds Second Degree can be committed two ways: 1) by having less than two times the possession limit for wild birds and not having on the hunter’s possession any required licenses or tags (but the hunter does own them), or 2) violating any department rule regarding seasons, possession limits, closed areas, closed times or the method of hunting or possessing wild birds. Second Degree is a Simple Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1000 fine.

Unlawful Hunting of Wild Birds First Degree is taking or possessing two or more times the possession limit for wild birds. First Degree is a Gross Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 364 days in jail and/or a $5000 fine.

Additionally under this statute is a requirement that hunters use nontoxic shot. Hunting with toxic shot, upon conviction, requires a mandatory $1000 fine and revocation of small game hunting privileges for two years.

Unlawful Recreation Fishing


There are two degrees of Unlawful Recreational Fishing. They are Unlawful Recreational Fishing First Degree (a Gross Misdemeanor) and Unlawful Recreational Fishing Second Degree (a Simple Misdemeanor).

Unlawful Recreational Fishing Second Degree can be charged two ways: 1) fishing, regardless of whether the person possesses fish or shellfish, without purchasing the appropriate fishing or shellfish license and catch record card, or 2) taking, possessing or harvesting fish or shellfish while owning, but not currently possessing, the required licenses and catch record cards. As a Simple Misdemeanor, Unlawful Recreational Fishing Second Degree is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1000 fine.

Unlawful Recreational Fishing First Degree can be alleged five different ways. These are 1) having two or more times the limit set for any fish or shellfish, 2) fishing in a fishway, 3) gaffing and spearing when not authorized, 3) fishing for threatened or endangered species when not specifically authorized, 4) possessing sturgeon measuring larger than maximum size limit, and 5) possessing salmon or steelhead out of season. Unlawful Recreational Fishing First Degree is a Gross Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 364 days in jail and/or a $5000 fine.

"Fishway" means any facility or device that is designed to enable fish to effectively pass around or through an obstruction without undue stress or delay.

Unlawful Trapping


Unlawful Trapping can be alleged three ways: 1) using traps capable of taking wild animals without possessing all licenses, tags and permits required, 2) violating possession, season, time, location and bag limits, and 3) failing to appropriately identify traps with tags or inscriptions. Unlawful Trapping is a Simple Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1000 fine.

Violation of License Suspension Order


There are two degrees of Violating of Suspension Order. First Degree is a Class C Felony, while second degree is a Gross Misdemeanor.

Violating of Suspension Order Second Degree is engaging in any activity licensed by the department while that person’s privileges to do that activity were licensed or revoked. As a Gross Misdemeanor, it is punishable by up to 364 days in jail and/or a $5000 fine.

Violating of Suspension Order First Degree is engaging in any activity licensed by the department while that person’s privileges to do that activity were licensed or revoked AND either 1) the suspension was permanent, 2) the dollar value taken was over $250 worth, or 3) the violation involved endangered or threatened species, or big game.

Ashbach Law Offices, LLC, aggressively represents clients charged with Department of Fish and Wildlife offenses throughout the Washington I-5 corridor, covering Skagit, Snohomish, King and Whatcom Counties. Regular courts of practice include, but are not limited to, Anacortes, Arlington, Bellevue, Bellingham, Blaine, Burlington, Edmonds, Everett, Issaquah, Lynnwood, Marysville, Monroe, Mount Vernon, Mountlake Terrance, Redmond, Seattle, Sedro Woolley and Shoreline.