Lacey Act Wildlife Defense

Areas of Practice

Lacey Act Wildlife Defense Lawyer

Rick Coad is a leading federal wildlife defense lawyer in Wisconsin and the Midwest.

Attorney Rick Coad

The two most common wildlife charges filed in federal court are violations of the Lacey Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Both carry significant penalties, including felony and misdemeanor provisions. Rick Coad has lent his expertise in defending individuals and corporations against these charges.

The Lacey Act (16 U.S.C. Section 3373) is a federal wildlife protection law. The Lacey Act makes it a crime to knowingly sell, ship, or receive in interstate commerce wildlife that was taken in violation of state wildlife regulations. Because the Lacey Act requires the government to prove both a violation of a state, tribal, or federal hunting or fishing regulation, and the knowing sale of that illegally taken wildlife in interstate commerce, it provides several lines of defense. The law also provides for misdemeanor and civil violations as alternatives to felony charges. Rick Coad understands the law and how to best defend his clients against these charges.

Similarly, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16 U.S.C. Sections 703-712) is a federal wildlife law that protects certain species of birds and waterfowl. It is key for an attorney to understand both federal court, which is very different than state court, and the underlying state and federal hunting regulations that serve as the basis for these charges.

Rick Coad has a proven track record of success in defending these cases. Call today for a consultation.

Case Results

  • Federal Court - Western District of Michigan (2019)

      Coad Law’s client is a leading wholesale exporter of fish and roe from the Great Lakes region. In a vast undercover investigation throughout the Great Lakes region aimed at curbing overfishing of certain species by native tribes in the region, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service targeted fish buyers. Unfortunately, the client purchased perch and walleye that were taken in violation of tribal regulations. The government threatened to charge the client with multiple felony violations of the Lacey Act, restitution in excess of $1 million and a term in prison. All of the other fish wholesalers caught up in the investigation were convicted to a term of imprisonment. Through a lengthy and skilled negotiation with the government, and presenting compelling sentencing arguments to the federal court, Attorney Coad achieved a result for the client of a term of probation, and a fine far below what the government threatened. The client’s business reputation, its critical line of credit, and its business operations remained intact, and continues on today as a valuable business in its region.

  • Federal Court – Eastern District of Wisconsin, Green Bay, WI (2017)

      The client was the subject of a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service undercover investigation into violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Lacey Act. He was a guide for waterfowl hunts. The government threatened prosecution for multiple felony violations for “group bagging” of ducks on several hunts. Prior to the government issuing any charges, Attorney Coad successfully negotiated a misdemeanor violation of the Lacey Act. The client paid a fine, retained his ability to serve as a guide, and was not subject to any supervision.

  • Federal Court – Western District of Wisconsin, Madison, WI (2016)

      Another client who served as a guide in the western part of Wisconsin was also the subject of a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service undercover investigation into violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Lacey Act. He also was a guide for waterfowl hunts. The government, through the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Madison, also threatened prosecution for multiple felony violations for “group bagging” of ducks on several hunts. Prior to the government issuing any charges, Attorney Coad successfully negotiated a misdemeanor violation of the Lacey Act. The client paid a fine, retained his ability to serve as a guide, and was not subject to any supervision.

  • Federal Court – Eastern District of Wisconsin, Green Bay, WI (2013)

      The client was charged with several felony violations of the Lacey Act – a federal wildlife protection law – and making a false statement to a federal agent (18 U.S.C. Section 1001). The Lacey Act makes it a crime to knowingly sell, ship, or receive in interstate commerce wildlife that was taken in violation of state wildlife regulations.  In this instance, the government believed that the client had aided and abetted two illegally guided bear hunts, and then later lied about the hunts to an agent of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  On the eve of trial, the government agreed to dismiss all of the felonies and allow the client to plead guilty to two misdemeanor violations of the Lacey Act.  At sentencing, the government argued for a prison sentence.  Attorney Coad argued for a term of probation without jail, and the court agreed.

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