What Is Spotlighting?
You may not have heard of it before, but Spotlighting Big Game is a hunting law that can carry serious penalties. You could be charged with Spotlighting Big Game if caught utilizing artificial light to aid you in hunting—flashlights, car headlights, spotlights, or any type of night vision equipment are all examples of artificial light. This charge is defined under RCW 77.15.450 and is a gross misdemeanor for first offenders.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) monitors hunting activities in the state of Washington and will issue a criminal charge if you are caught spotlighting big game. Animals like bears and deer will typically freeze when caught in bright light, so the DFW deemed it unlawful to take advantage of this while hunting. DFW considers spotlighting such a serious concern that they sometimes deploy mechanical decoys to catch hunters utilizing spotlighting. You can read more about these laws on the DFW website page: Prohibited Hunting Methods.
Is Spotlighting Illegal in Washington?
Spotlighting big game is a criminal charge, not an infraction. Spotlighting in the second degree is a gross misdemeanor, meaning you could face a maximum penalty of a $5000 fine and 364 days in jail. You could also lose your right to hunt for 2 years and have to pay for a wildlife penalties assessment. If you have been convicted of this crime, or another gross misdemeanor or felony crime involving big game, within the last 10 years and are charged with spotlighting, you could be charged with a felony and lose your right to hunt for 10 years.
The DFW takes hunting and fishing laws very seriously, and it can be difficult to remember all the rules and regulations when you are out in the wild. We recommend frequently visiting the DFW website to familiarize yourself with the laws, so you can avoid being charged with a crime while hunting. The DFW Washington Hunting page details everything you need to know about regulations, permits, seasons, and more.
What Can You Do?
If you have been charged with spotlighting big game, we recommend contacting an attorney immediately. Your attorney will review your unique situation and may assign you tasks to help mitigate your situation such as taking a hunters education course or completing community service. These affirmative actions can mitigate your situation by showing remorse and that you have taken steps to educate yourself on how to not break hunting regulations in the future. Following any recommended steps from your attorney can help you avoid being convicted and losing your hunting rights, so it is crucial to retain legal counsel right away.
Contact an Attorney for Legal Assistance
If you are facing this charge in Washington state, we recommend retaining an attorney to assist you with your criminal case. There are ways your attorney can try to mitigate the situation and avoid getting a criminal conviction on your record. Being accused of a crime is a difficult situation and can feel very stressful. However, it is not hopeless. If you take the right steps now, jail time and convictions can often be avoided. If you need help, please give our office a call at (425) 224-7075. We will listen to you, identify a way forward, and do whatever possible to get you the result you need and deserve. The Law Offices of Lance Fryrear has more than 20 years of defending this type of situation throughout Washington State. Give us a call and we will be there for you.