Defense Attorney Argues: No Antlers, No Felony

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Several states, such as Montana and Colorado have poaching laws that elevate a crime to felony status if the poached animal is considered a trophy based on measurements of the poached animals antlers. Jimmie Roberts is accused of poaching a trophy class bull in Montana, along with several other related poaching charges, however the state could not produce the trophy antlers during Mr. Roberts' ongoing trial.

According to the Billings Gazette, Mr. Roberts' defense attorney has asked that the felony charge be dismissed because they are not able to independently measure the antlers.

In his motion and at the hearing Friday Roberts’ attorney, Jeff Michael, argued that the felony accusation should be dismissed because the antlers from the bull elk were inadvertently sold to a Billings recycling company before trial. As a result, Michael said, his client is unable to independently determine through a defense expert whether the antlers meet the criteria of a trophy animal under state law.


hunter25's picture

The article says that there

The article says that there are pictures and the score was taken by a certified expert. It should be cut and dry from there but we all know how the law works. Obviously this was not a one time incident for this guy and for all we know may have been a yearly event. I hope he gets what he deserves. Even without a felony charge he still has plenty of other charges to deal with.

numbnutz's picture

WOW!! Poaching is poaching is

WOW!! Poaching is poaching is poaching, they shouldnt base it on antler size, it should be based on they shot an animal illegaly and the punishment should be the same whether its a buck or a doe or cow or bull. It should all be a felony with very stiff fines and jail time, poachers give all true hunters and outdoorsman a bad name. I'm tired of seeing people get off the hook because of technicalities its a bunch of BS. Through the darn book at him and never let have a weapon again.

WishIWasHunting's picture

Not all poaching is the same

Not for the purpose of being argumentative, but I would disagree with the idea that all poaching is the same.  A friend of mine was fighting charges related to poaching, including getting hit with Colorado's Samson (trophy poaching) law.  He had a valid license, but he did shoot from the road.  Just prior to his hunting season, he had surgery, and did not want to have his license reissued for medical reasons for the following year.  Was he wrong to shoot from the road?  Absolutely!  He freely admits that he made the wrong decision.  Was he poaching?  Not in my opinion.  He broke a rule, and by breaking that rule, he cheated himself, that animal, and other sportsmen out of an excellent hunting opportunity.  He was ready to accept his punishment for breaking that one rule.  Should he get hit by the Samson law?  Absolutely not!  The buck he harvested was decent, but for that area, it was at best an average buck.  If he would have been convicted under the Samson law, I believe he would have lost his hunting privileges in nearly every state (if not every state) for life.  He comes from a family of avid law-abiding hunters.  As a family, they do an excellent job of carrying on the hunting tradition.  In my friend's case, losing hunting privileges for life and the financial penalties that came with the charges are punishments disproportionate to the crime. 

With this experience in mind, I would argue that there are instances in which an other wise law-abiding hunter is charged with poaching when they are really only guilty of a lesser offense.  There are instances of poaching which are more heinous than others, and penalties should vary with the circumstances of the crime.  To ignore the sex and potential trophy status of the animal is to intentionally ignore some of the circumstances surrounding the crime. 

Back to the article, it sounds like this gentleman has a possible history of poaching.  It also sounds like he set out with the intention of knowingly and willingly harvesting an animal illegally, possibly for trophy reasons.  Without knowing more of the circumstances surrounding the poaching charges, it does sound like a case where he should be hit by the full force of the law, and he should never be allowed to hunt again.  I also agree that people getting off the hook for crimes they commit because of technicalities is a bunch of BS.  Poachers do give all true hunters and outdoorsmen a bad name, and we, as responsible hunters and outdoorsmen, need to defend our sport from these individuals.

Ca_Vermonster's picture

I am not doubting your

I am not doubting your friend, but you have to look at it from the eyes of the law, which I have alot of experience in doing. Wink

If you let your buddy slide, because he had surgery and didn't want to change his tag, or let the next guy walk because he "forgot" something or just didn't want to do it, then that would set precedent for everyone following.

I know it isn't, and shouldn't be a one size fits all prosecution, but he did violate game laws by what he did.  It's a matter of where to draw the line.

And you said it yourself--> He cheated himself, the animal, and another hunter out of an opportunity at a deer.  "Poacher" is sort of harsh, but accurate, according to it's definition.

WishIWasHunting's picture

Thought in prosecution and sentencing

Neither myself nor my friend believe that he should be allowed to slide.  I agree that the fact that he was recovering from surgery is irrelevant to the case, but I included it as background.  I also am not advocating for moving the line, simply specifying which line is being crossed and the consequences for crossing that particular line. 

The disagreement with law enforcement is about the list of charges that were brought subsequently and the potential penalties associated with those charges.  In my mind, an appropriate penalty might have been being forced to donate the processed animal to the nearest Food Drive non-profit, a temporary (5-10 yrs) mark of some sort on his record, and a reasonable ($100-$400?) fine. 

In my opinion, poaching better describes activities like shooting an animal without a license, out of season, of the wrong sex, using a method other than the method specified by the license (e.i. rifle hunting during archery or muzzleloader seasons), and in a protected area (wildlife preserve), and each of these types of poaching should not be prosecuted using a one size fit's all approach. 

CA, thanks for the response, and I hope that in this discussion, no one has felt like I am attacking them.  I simply enjoy debates like this. 

Ca_Vermonster's picture

Nothing but good honest

Nothing but good honest discussion.  All is good. Wink

groovy mike's picture


Poaching gives all hunting a bad name.  I suppose even if teh conviction is not a felony it should serve the purpose of keeping this guy from poaching again.  Not sure why they wuld elivate it to a felony to starty with since hunting regulations are usually made on the state level.  If convicted, the state could revoke his hunting license in that state as well as access whatever fine they judged to make a ppropriate by their state legislation.  The only argument for a felony charge would be in the case where they thought this guy was likely to poach in multiple states and the states recognizing the conviction as sufficient to bar him from hunting, but I can't see that being what they are after here unless it is an attempt to keep firearms away from him teh rest of his life.

WishIWasHunting's picture

Legal Technicalities

It is annoying that a defendent can get away with a crime simply for something I view as a simple legal technicality.  It sounds like there is a very strong case against this individual, even without the antlers.  As long as there is no logical reason to doubt the validity of the measurements or measurement process of the antlers, the physical presence of the antlers should be irrelevant. 

As a side note, it would have been nice if the article would have included the measurements of the "trophy" bull.  Poaching is horrible, and it sounds like this particular guy has plenty of reasons to get hit by the full force of the law.  However, some of the "trophy" poaching laws are ridiculous.  In Colorado, it is my opinion that the "trophy" classification, particularly for mule deer, is too broad in that animals that are rather common are classified as trophies.  From what I have read about other states' poaching trophy laws, I think I like the idea of a sliding scale as an attempt to get the penalty more suitable to the crime. 

Ca_Vermonster's picture

Unbelievable that thig guy

Unbelievable that thig guy would try this, but unfortunately, he'll probably get away with it.

In today's court, you don't need to prove your "innocent".  You just need to cast some sort of doubt out there, and then you can get away with just about anything.

The guy was caught, and should buck up and take his lumps.

Another problem with society today, not taking respinsibility for his actions.  Always trying to weasel your way out of things.

Ugh!  Rant over.....