Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Game Warden Files--Trust, but Verify

Over the years each officer develops relationships with groups of sportsmen in his area.  Some are adversarial, some cat and mouse, and some are pretty friendly and trusting.  Sometimes it's a good idea to have another officer take the lead role on encounters in your territory just to keep folks honest.

Mike Trottier and I were checking deer hunters on Tolmantown Road and encountered a long line of guys headed to camp for lunch. Some were afoot and a few were on ATVs.  Interestingly, it was the older guys who were walking. When I recognized one of the men, I realized the camp they were from and told Mike that we probably would have no problems with this group.  How wrong I was!

We saw a couple of the younger guys--who were on the ATVs--start to act a bit nervous so we checked their rifles. Both were loaded and so were in violation of the law. I was quite surprised and the leader of the group who was the camp owner was devastated. He ran a tight ship in his camp--heavy on safety and obeying the law; the thought that anyone hunting from his camp would commit such an offence just cut him deeply. He would have written the tickets himself had he been allowed to.

One of the offenders was the son of a couple I knew pretty well. His dad was a Sportsmen's Education Instructor, teaching the course that's required to get a hunting license. The other was a young guy I didn't know that well. We wrote them up and I told them I'd see them in court. Mike and I agreed that since the violation was more along the line of a safety violation--they hadn't been road hunting--we would settle them by a process known as Civil Compromise. The compromise is an agreement in court between the state and the offender, admitting that the law had been violated, but had no criminal penalty--merely a civil penalty. Often, the compromise would be a higher penalty than a fine would be; but was payed gladly to avoid having a misdemeanor conviction on record.

On court night, the first young man showed up and greeted me like a puppy that knew he'd been bad: head down, tail between his legs...we all know the look. I offered the civil compromise and he agreed gladly.  The other guy showed up a couple minutes later and came strutting across the parking lot.  "I hired ...." and named a well respected local criminal attorney.  I had the first one settled and out the door before the other one's lawyer arrived.

When the lawyer came, he spoke with his client and then asked to see me privately. I offered the same compromise and he asked if I we could go any lower. NOPE! I would be more than happy to set a trial date. The attorney chuckled and said that he'd had to at least ask, and we settled that one up too...of course this guy had to pay the most expensive lawyer in town for a court appearance. We'll call that an attitude adjustment fee.

No comments:

Post a Comment