Alaska governor backs bill to lessen hunting, fishing violations

FAIRBANKS, Alaska — A bill that Gov. Bill Walker has backed would make some of Alaska’s hunting and fishing violations more like traffic tickets than criminal prosecutions.

The bill follows a trend in Alaska law of moving some misdemeanor-level crimes to the lesser “violation” category, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

“A criminal conviction is not always appropriate, nor is it necessarily the best outcome for the state or the offender,” Walker said last spring. “By creating the option of a violation where the offender acts without any culpable mental state, prosecutors and law enforcement can more appropriately enforce the state’s fish and game laws while maximizing public use and enjoyment.”

The proposed law change would give new leniency to people who have licenses but don’t have them in their possession when approached in the field by law enforcement. Hunters and fishers who receive a citation would have the option of bringing a copy of their license to court.

“This provision would prevent what may have been an honest mistake from turning into an unnecessary conviction,” Walker said.

The bill does, however, call for increasing fines for commercial fishing violations and for the offense of unlawfully taking an animal. The fine for illegally taking a bison, for example, would more than double to $3,000. The bill would also allow the state to charge larger fines for hunters and fishermen who fail to buy licenses.

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