Florida Fish and Wildlife Violations
As listed in Section 379.401 of the Florida Statutes, the penalties for Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) violations include:
- civil penalties for noncriminal infractions;
- criminal penalties for criminal violations; or
- provisions for the suspension and forfeiture of licenses and permits.
Under Section 379.401(6), the court may order the suspension or forfeiture of any license or permit issued under this chapter to a person who is found guilty of committing a violation of this chapter.
The officers with FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement investigate illegal activities, including misdemeanor and felony charges, related to fish and wildlife laws and regulations, federal rules and regulations, and boating safety enforcement.
For a misdemeanor, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) Officer might issue a “resource citation” that requires you to go to court to answer the charges. Citations for violations of fishing laws are particularly common in the Tampa Bay area.
If you are charged with any violation of the rules relating to fish and wildlife conservation, you can hire an attorney to represent you in court.
Attorney for FWC Violations in Tampa, FL
Our attorneys are familiar with the way investigations are conducted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
The FWC Officer must follow their standard operating procedures when investigating cases for the protection of both game and non-game species of fish and wildlife, the regulation of salt and fresh water fisheries, and the protection of marine life.
Contact us to find out more about the penalties for a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) violation which depends on whether the offense is classified as a Level One, Level Two, Level Three, or Level Four violation.
The penalties for FWC violations might impact your ability to enjoy boating, fishing, or hunting in Florida. Contact us about the best way to fight allegations of illegal fish, wildlife, environmental or boating crimes.
FWC has enacted orders for boating during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak.
Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is responsible for regulating, managing, protecting, and conserving the state’s fish and wildlife resources as provided by FLA. CONST. art. IV, s. 9.
As explained in Florida Statute Section 379.102(1), FWC is governed by a board of seven members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Florida Senate to five-year terms.
Under Article IV, Section 9 of the Florida Constitution, FWC is granted the
authority to exercise the regulatory and executive powers of the state for marine life, wild animal life, and fresh water aquatic life.
FWC Level Four Felony Violations
Level Four Violations are the most serious. A person who commits a Level Four violation commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
Under Section 379.401(4), a person commits a Level Four violation if he or she violates any provision prohibiting:
- the killing of any Florida or wild panther under Section 379.4115
- the intentional killing or wounding of any species designated as endangered, threatened, or of special concern under Section 379.411
- the unlawful killing, injuring, possessing, or capturing of alligators or other Crocodilia or their eggs under Section 379.409
- the molestation or theft of freshwater fishing gear under Section 379.405
- the sale of illegally-taken deer or wild turkey under Section 379.404(5)
- the unlawful reproduction, possession, sale, trade, or barter of spiny lobster trap tags or certificates under Section 379.3671(2)(c)5
- the willful molestation of spiny lobster gear under Section 379.367(4)
- criminal activities relating to the taking of stone crabs under Section 379.365(2)(c)
- criminal activities relating to the taking and harvesting of blue crabs under Section 379.366(4)(c)
- the making, forging, counterfeiting, or reproduction of a recreational license or the possession of same without authorization from the commission under Section 379.354(16)
FWC Level Three Misdemeanor Violations
Pursuant to Section 379.401(3), a person commits a Level Three violation if he or she violates any of the rules or orders of the commission prohibiting:
- the possession and transportation of commercial quantities of freshwater game fish
- the illegal taking and possession of deer and wild turkey
- the sale, transfer, or purchase of tarpon
- the taking of game, freshwater fish, or saltwater fish while a required license is suspended or revoked
- the illegal sale or possession of alligators
- the importation of freshwater fish
- the illegal importation or possession of exotic marine plants or animals
- the sale of saltwater fish
Other types of Level Three Violations can be found in Section 379.407(2) or involve Section 379.407(4), prohibiting the possession of certain finfish in excess of recreational daily bag limits.
Under Section 379.401(3)(b)1., a first Level Three violation is charged as a misdemeanor of the first degree. A second Level Three violation within 10 years of a prior qualifying conviction is charged as a misdemeanor of the first degree with a minimum mandatory fine of $750 and a suspension of any recreational license or permit issued under s. 379.354 for the remainder of the period for which the license or permit was issued up to 3 years.
A violation of Section 379.354(17) taking game, freshwater fish, saltwater fish, or fur-bearing animals in Florida with a suspended or revoked license, is charged as a first degree misdemeanor with a mandatory fine of $1,000 and any privileges under ss. 379.353 and 379.354 may not be acquired for a 5-year period following the date of the violation.
The term “conviction” means any judicial disposition other than acquittal or dismissal.
FWC Level Two Misdemeanor Violations
Pursuant to Section 379.401(2), a person commits a Level Two violation if he or she violates any of the rules or orders of the commission relating to:
- the return of unused CITES tags issued under an alligator program other than the Statewide Alligator Harvest Program or the Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program
- requiring the maintenance of records relating to alligators
- the unlawful use of traps, unless otherwise provided by law
- the use of dogs for the taking of wildlife
- tagging requirements for wildlife and fur-bearing animals
- landing requirements for freshwater fish or saltwater fish
- restricted hunting areas, critical wildlife areas, or bird sanctuaries
- the feeding of saltwater fish
- prohibiting access or otherwise relating to access to wildlife management areas or other areas managed by the commission
- seasons or time periods for the taking of wildlife, freshwater fish, or saltwater fish
- establishing bag, possession, or size limits or restricting methods of taking wildlife, freshwater fish, or saltwater fish
Other types of Level Two violations relate to:
- prohibiting the loan or transfer of a license or permit and the use of a borrowed or transferred license or permit under Section 379.3502
- the use of explosives and other substances or force in fresh waters under Section 379.295
- the contamination of fresh waters under Section 379.29
- spearfishing under Section 379.2425
- fishers and equipment under Section 379.2421
- prohibiting the intentional harassment of hunters, fishers, or trappers under Section 379.105
- the unlawful taking of bonefish under Section 379.413
- tagging requirements for alligators and hides under Section 379.3752
- licenses for the taking and possession of alligators under Section 379.3751
- the theft of spiny lobster trap contents or trap gear under Section 379.3671(2)(c), except s. 379.3671(2)(c)5
- the theft of blue crab trap contents or trap gear under Section 379.366(4)(b)
- the theft of stone crab trap contents or trap gear under Section 379.365(2)(b)
- fur and hide dealer licenses under Section 379.364
- freshwater fish dealer licenses under Section 379.363
- the taking, killing, or possession of tarpon without purchasing a tarpon tag under Section 379.3511
- the sale of hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses and permits by subagents
- entering false information on licenses or permits under Section 379.3504
- false statements in an application for a license or permit under Section 379.3503
The penalties for a Level Two Violation depend on the number and timing of any prior designated convictions. For a first offense, a Level Two violation is charged as a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
For a second offense within 3 years of a designated prior offense, the Level Two violation can be charged as a misdemeanor of the first degree, which is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine (unless otherwise provided).
For a third violation within 5 years after two previous designated convictions, the crime is charged as a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine with a minimum mandatory fine of $500 and a suspension of any recreational license or permit issued under s. 379.354 for 1 year.
For a fourth violation within 10 years, the crime is charged as a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine with a minimum mandatory fine of $750 and a suspension of any recreational license or permit issued under s. 379.354 for 3 years.
Most crimes for harassing marine life, including a dolphin, manatee, or sea turtle is charged as a Level II violation or second degree misdemeanor.
Other offenses include violations of Florida Statute Section 379.401(2)(a) and the Rule 68B-14.006(4), Florida Administrative Code, pertaining to reef fish including a requirement that all fish harvested must be landed in a while condition some times called “illegal possession of a fish not whole.”
FWC Level One Violations – Noncriminal Infractions
Pursuant to Section 379.401(1)(b), a person who commits a Level One violation commits a noncriminal infraction and shall be cited to appear before the county court.
If you are cited for a Level One violation, the FWC officer will ask you to sign and accept a citation to appear before the judge in county court in the county in which the infraction occurred. The citation may indicate the time and location of the scheduled hearing and the applicable civil penalty.
If you do not resolve the citation by paying the appropriate amount within the allotted time, represent yourself by personally appearing in court, or hiring an attorney to appear for you, then you can be charged with a second degree misdemeanor which is punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
So if you get this kind of level one violation you can either:
- pay the civil penalty, and, if applicable, provide proof of the license or permit required under s. 379.354 by mail or in person within 30 days after receipt of the citation;
- represent yourself by electing to appear before the county court; or
- retain an attorney to appear on your behalf.
A person found guilty of committing a Level One violation may appeal that finding to the circuit court. The commission of a violation must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
Pursuant to Section 379.401(1), level one violations apply to the 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.
- 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
- daily use permits, alcoholic beverages, swimming, possession of firearms, operation of vehicles, and watercraft speed within fish management areas managed by the commission
- vessel size or specifying motor restrictions on specified water bodies.
Some level one violations related to:
- 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
- Section 379.3003, prohibiting deer hunting unless required clothing is worn
- Section 379.354(1)-(15), providing for recreational licenses to hunt, fish, and trap
- Section 379.3581, providing hunter safety course requirements
Pursuant to Section 379.401(1)(c)1, the civil penalty for committing most Level One violations involving the license and permit requirements of s. 379.354 is $50 plus the cost of the license or permit.
Alternatively, except for a person who violates s. 379.354(6), (7), or (8)(f) or (h), a person who violates the license and permit requirements of s. 379.354 and is subject to the penalties of this subparagraph may purchase the license or permit, provide proof of such license or permit, and pay a civil penalty of $50.
The civil penalty for committing a Level One violation involving the license and permit requirements of s. 379.354 is $250 plus the cost of the license or permit if the person cited has previously committed the same Level One violation within the preceding 36 months.
Alternatively, except for a person who violates s. 379.354(6), (7), or (8)(f) or (h), a person who violates the license and permit requirements of s. 379.354 and is subject to the penalties of this subparagraph may purchase the license or permit, provide proof of such license or permit, and pay a civil penalty of $250.
The civil penalty for any other Level One violation is $50 unless subparagraph 2. applies.
The civil penalty for any other Level One violation is $250 if the person cited has previously committed the same Level One violation within the preceding 36 months.
Seizures by Florida Fish and Wildlife
When an arrest is made pursuant to Chapter 370 and illegal perishable products or perishable products illegally taken are seized, the law enforcement agency which seized the produces are typically authorized by the Courts to destroy minor amounts of perishable saltwater products without obtaining individual court orders from the presiding judge at the
conclusion of each case.
The term “minor amounts” of perishable saltwater products is defined as amounts having no appreciable commercial value.
Pursuant to Florida Statute §372.73, the Court may declare the forfeiture of game and freshwater fish properly seized prior to conviction be donated to a hospital or charitable institution and retained by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for later production in court, if necessary.
New Flounder Regulations in Florida
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved changes during its meeting in December of 2020 after a stock status update suggested that the flounder fishery statewide has been in a declining trend.
The new flounder regulations created by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, effective March 1, 2021, include:
- Creating a federal waters trawl bycatch limit of 150 fish per trip from December 1 through October 14 and 50 fish per trip from October 15 – November 30;
- Modifying the incidental bycatch limit for commercial harvesters using non-allowable gear from 50 pounds per trip to 50 fish per trip;
- For commercial harvesters using allowable gear: Establishing a commercial trip and vessel limit of 150 fish from December 1 – October 14, and 50 fish from October 15 – November 30;
- Establishing an October 15 through November 30 recreational closed season;
- Reducing the recreational daily bag limit from 10 to five fish per person; and
- Increasing the minimum size limit from 12 inches to 14 inches total length for both recreational and commercial fishing.
The new regulations extend all Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission(FWC) flounder regulations into federal waters.
Animal / Marine Life / Hunting / Fishing / Park Violations
The most common animal, marine life, hunting, fishing, and park violations include:
- Fishing Violations
- 68B1 – 68B24.003 – POSSESSION OF UNDERSIZED CRAWFISH
- 68B4 – 68B-24.003(4) – POSSESSION OF A WRUNG TAIL
- 68B6 – 68B-14.0045(2)(G) – UNLAWFUL HARVEST OR POSSESSION OF GREATER AMBERJACK
- 68B7 – 68B-14.0036(6)(A) – UNLAWFUL HARVEST OF GREATER AMBERJACK (prior)
- 68B8 – 68B 21.004 – POSSESSION OF SNOOK OUT OF SEASON
- 68B8A – 68B-21.005(1) – POSSESSION OF UNDERSIZED AND/OR OVERSIZED SNOOK
- 68B8B – 68B-21.007 – TAKING SNOOK BY UNLAWFUL MEANS
- 68B9 – 68B-14.0035 – POSSESSION OF UNDERSIZED BLACK GROUPER
- 68B10 – 68B-20.003(2)(B) – SPEARFISHING WITHIN 100 YARDS OF COMMERCIAL OR PUBLIC FISHING PIER
- Park Violations
- 2580A – 258.007(2) – UNLAWFUL ENTRY OR EXIT FROM STATE PARK
- 3793A – 379.354(16) – FORGERY OF A FISHING OR HUNTING LICENSE
- 3794A – 379.401(2)(A) -UNLAWFUL POSSESSION OF GUN IN A WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA
- 3794A1 – 379.401(2)(A) – UNLAWFUL POSSESSION OF CENTER-FIRE RIFLE IN WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA
- Turtle Eggs
- 3792A – 379.2431(1)(D)1 AND 2, (E)2 – POSSESSION OF MARINE TURTLE EGGS
- 3792A1 – 379.2431(1)(D)1 AND 2, (E)4 – FELONY POSSESSION OF MARINE TURTLE EGGS
- 3792A2- 379.2431(1)(E)5 – UNLAWFUL TAKING OF MARINE TURTLE EGGS
- Hunting Violations
- 3794B – 379.401(2)(A) – UNLAWFUL POSSESSION OF AN ALLIGATOR OR ITS PARTS
- 3794D – 379.409(1) – TAKING OR ATTEMPTING TO TAKE AN ALLIGATOR
- 3794C – 379.404(3) – UNLAWFUL TAKING OF DOE DEER
- 3794E – 379.411 – KILLING OR WOUNDING OF ANY SPECIES DESIGNATED AS ENDANGERED, THREATENED, OR
OF SPECIAL CONCERN
- 5004A – 500.451 – UNLAWFUL POSSESSION OR SALE OF HORSE MEAT
- Dog Attacks / Bites
- 7671A1 – 767.13(1) – ATTACK OR BITE BY DOG PREVIOUSLY DECLARED DANGEROUS
- 7671A – 767.13(2) – ATTACK OR BITE BY DANGEROUS DOG
- Animal Cruelty
- 8230B – 823.041(1),(2) AND (3) – UNLAWFUL DISPOSAL OF DEAD ANIMAL
- 8281A – 828.12(1) – CRUELTY TO ANIMALS
- 8281B – 828.12(2) – FELONY CRUELTY TO ANIMALS
- 8281C – 828.122(3) – ANIMAL FIGHTING
- 8281C1 – 828.122(3)(G)AND(H) – BETTING ON OR ATTENDING AN ANIMAL FIGHT
- 8281D1 – 828.13(2) – UNLAWFUL ABANDONMENT OR CONFINEMENT OF ANIMAL
- 8281D2 – 828.13(3) – ABANDONMENT OF ANIMAL
- 8281E1 – 828.123(1) – KILLING DOGS OR CATS FOR PURPOSES OF SELLING PELTS
- 8281E2 – 828.123(2) – UNLAWFUL POSSESSION OF DOG OR CAT PELT
- 8281E3 – 828.123(3) – UNLAWFUL IMPORTATION OF A DOG OR CAT
- 8281E4 – 828.123(4) – DEALING OR BUYING DOG OR CAT PELTS
- 8281F1 – 828.1231(1) – SALE OF CLOTHING CONTAINING DOG OR CAT PELTS
- 8281F2 – 828.1231(1)AND(3) – SALE OF CLOTHING CONTAINING DOG OR CAT PELTS (priors)
- 8281F3 – 828.1231(2) – SALE OF DOG OR CAT PELTS
- 8281F4 – 828.1231(2)AND(3) – SALE OF DOG OR CAT PELTS (priors)
- 8281H – 828.125(1) – KILLING OR AGGRAVATED ABUSE OF HORSES OR CATTLE
- 8281H1 – 828.125(2) – ATTEMPT, SOLICIT OR CONSPIRE TO COMMIT KILLING OR AGGRAVATED ABUSE OF HORSES
- 8281H2 – 828.125(3) – UNLAWFULLY THREATEN TO COMMIT KILLING OR AGGRAVATED ABUSE OF HORSES OR CATTLE
Prohibitions on Harassing Fisherman in Florida – Section 379.105 prohibits the intentional harassment of hunters, fishers, or trappers found in Chapter 379 of Title XXVIII. The statute prohibits interfering with the lawful taking of fish, game, or nongame animals by another. The crime of harassing a fisherman in Florida is charged as a Level Two violation under s. 379.401 which is a second degree misdemeanor for a first offense.
FWC – Division of Law Enforcement – The mission of the FWC – Division of Law Enforcement is to protect Florida’s natural resources and people through proactive and responsive law enforcement services. FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement has more than 800 sworn officers who enforce all laws of the State with full powers of arrest. FWC officers are responsible for protecting life, limb, and property on the waters and lands of the State, enforcing fish and wildlife laws and regulations, federal rules and regulations, and boating safety enforcement. Officers are knowledgeable about the regulations of salt and fresh water fisheries, hunting, and the protection of both game and non-game species of fish and wildlife.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Farris Bryant Building
620 S. Meridian St.
Florida Fish and Wildlife on Facebook – Visit Facebook to find the profile page for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to find the creation date, business information, a link to the website, and the FWC’s stated mission.
This article was last updated on Monday, December 20, 2021.