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Can You Be Arrested For Fishing Without A License?

Can you be arrested for fishing without a license in Colorado?

The short answer is: probably not. Unless there are extremely extenuating circumstances, there will be no jail time for fishing without a license. But there could be severe penalties for fishing without a license. 

Hunting and fishing are common pastimes in the United States, and especially so in Colorado. Thus, there are plenty of rules and regulations in place to protect outdoorsmen and wildlife. When you break those rules or regulations, there could be serious consequences. Depending on the severity of the violation, you could be facing fines and license suspensions. Not only do these license suspensions affect your ability to hunt in Colorado, but also in 44 other states. These states include neighboring Kansas.  

In this post, wildlife violations attorney Jeff Weeden will answer all your hunting and fishing questions, including “can you be arrested for fishing without a license?”

Can You Be Arrested for Fishing Without A License: Fines 

Colorado law dictates that anyone over the age of 16 who fishes must have a valid fishing license. Anyone under the age of 16 can fish without a license. Those who fall into this category can catch a full daily bag limit of whatever species they fish for. 

The majority of the time, the penalty for hunting or fishing without a license is a monetary fine. The fine for fishing without a license in Colorado is $50. If you pay this fine, you are pleading guilty to the ticket. 

This can affect more than just your fishing trip: when you plead guilty to fishing without a license by paying the $50 fine, you are also accepting ten points on your license.

Can You Be Arrested for Fishing Without A License: Wildlife Violation Points

Many states have a violation points system at the DMV. Colorado uses a similar system for your hunting and fishing license.

Here’s how it works:

Every new hunter or fisherman starts out with 0 points on their license. If a Colorado court convicts you of a hunting crime, or if you plead guilty, you get points based on your violation. If you earn 20 points within a five year period, Colorado can revoke your hunting and fishing privileges.

Most violations also come with a fine. Violations can get you anywhere from 10 to 20 points. But Colorado Parks and Wildlife can tack on one or two additional points depending on the offense.

The least serious offenses will still get you 10 points on your license. Some examples of 10 point violations, according to C.R.S. Title 33  are:

  • Use of a motor vehicle or aircraft
  • Use of wildlife as bait 
  • Damage or destruction of dens or nests 
  • Tampering with a trap 
  • Fishing without a license

Some examples of 15 point violations are:

  • The pursuit of wounded game
  • Possession of a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle
  • Hunting, fishing, or trapping out of season 

Any 20 point violation immediately puts you at risk of losing your hunting and fishing privileges. Some examples of 20 point violations include:

  • Hunting with artificial light, night vision, or thermal imaging devices 
  • Willful destruction of wildlife 
  • Hunting under the influence 

How Many Points Does Fishing Without a License Get Me?

As we mentioned earlier, pleading guilty to fishing without a license will earn you 10 points on your license. So if you’ve earned ten other points any time in the last five years, you could face losing your license altogether. 

But 10 points isn’t where it stops if you fish without a license. If you have any fish in your possession at the time, the fine and the violation points can escalate quickly.   

For the first fish in your possession, Colorado will fine you another $35. They will also add another five points to your count of 10 points. For every additional fish in your possession after that, you’ll get another $10 fine and an extra point.

Let’s break that down. A fisherman goes fishing and forgets his license. He catches six fish. If a wildlife official catches him, he will incur $125 in fines and 20 points on his license. 

Because of those twenty points, the fisherman may lose his hunting and fishing privileges for up to five years, for one simple mistake.

Can You Be Arrested For Fishing Without A License: Check Stations

Apart from “Can you be arrested for fishing without a license?” you might also be wondering how a wildlife official will catch you without a fishing license. 

Colorado Revised Statutes 33-6-11 gives Colorado Parks and Wildlife the authority to establish check stations. Check stations are places where anglers and hunters must turn over their licenses, any game they have with them, and any firearms they have with them.

What Are My Legal Defenses For Fishing Without A License?

The best legal defense is an offense. Now that you know how serious it can be to fish without a license, always do your best not to forget it at all.

But mistakes do happen. We understand that, and so does Colorado Parks and Wildlife. 

Before you go ahead and pay your ticket (i.e., plead guilty to the offense) give WeedenLaw a call about your situation. 

If you choose to attend, there will be a hearing before Colorado suspends your license. At this hearing, you and your wildlife violations attorney can present evidence in your favor. In these hearings, it is important that you admit to the correct mistakes. Admitting that you forgot your license is a good start. If we play our cards right at this hearing, it’s entirely possible we could get the number of points reduced so that you won’t lose your license. 

Can You Be Arrested for Fishing Without A License? Call WeedenLaw

If you find yourself frequently asking “can you be arrested for fishing without a license?” call WeedenLaw for more information about wildlife and fishing violations. You can call us at 720.307.4330, or you can leave us a message on our website. 

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