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April 11, 2014

New law changes penalties for outdoor recreation rules violations

New law changes penalties for outdoor recreation rules violations

INDIANAPOLIS – Patrons of the B-52 Pik-Up convenience store and tackle shop near the popular state-owned Brookville Lake may welcome news that tough penalties for violating some outdoor recreation rules are going away.

Some crimes – such as sounding a boat horn when there’s no emergency or exceeding the fish catch limit – are coming off the books or being reduced from misdemeanors to infractions this summer.

“They do gripe a lot about some of those laws,” said Tiffany Marshall, a B-52 store cashier. “They say things I can’t repeat.”

A law that takes effect July 1 may not stop the griping but it will significantly change the state’s boating, hunting and fishing rules. It eases dozens of penalties, removes some crimes and gives judges, prosecutors and state conservation officers more discretion over enforcement.

More violators will be cited with an infraction and fine – like a speeding ticket – rather than face the threat of jail, a criminal record and the loss of hunting, fishing and boating privileges.

Poaching a deer will still be illegal, for example, but it will no longer be a crime for a boat owner to post his license number in the wrong place on the vessel – unless it’s done to deceive law enforcement.

More penalties will be discretionary. A first-time offense of poaching a deer now carries an automatic $500 fine. Under the new law, it will be up a judge to impose the fine.

The changes were part of a larger effort to rewrite Indiana’s criminal code to make punishments more fitting of their crimes. Supporters say the law still protects natural resources but without such a heavy hand.

“If the law said you could only catch and keep a fish that was 14 inches long, it was a crime if it was 14 and a half inches,” said Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, whose district includes Brookville Lake, which attracts about 1 million visitors a year. “We need to reserve our criminal penalties for real crimes.”

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