The DNR: Department of Natural Resources
The DNR is the division of government which is responsible for conservation, management, and use of Michigan’s public and private natural resources. The DNR is composed of seven people appointed by the governor, and this panel institutes rules and regulations governing the safe and conservation-oriented use of state parks (SP’s) and state recreational areas (SRA’s). The rules they propose must be approved by the Michigan Senate, after which they become law.
The difference between state parks and state recreation areas
Most SP’s are closed to hunting, and are primarily reserved for hiking, camping, and nature-observation.
On the other hand, most SRA’s are lands which may be hunted, trapped, and fished. There are rules governing such use, and virtually all of this activity requires licensing, as all hunters and fishermen know. It should be noted, however, that some SP’s do allow hunting, trapping and fishing. If you know of a SP that you would like to use for these purposes, you simply call the particular SP and ask if this activity is allowed, or go to www.mi.gov/mihunt.
Michigan makes it easy to be able to access SP’s and SRA’s any time without paying entrance fees each time if you pay $11.00 at the Secretary of State for a yearly pass. Many people pay this fee each year when they renew their driver licenses. This pass is called a Recreation Passport. Accessing the SRA’s with a Recreational Passport will get you in free, but additional fees are required each time for a hunt.
For some animals, a license is required to harvest and for others a license is not needed. Necessary licenses can be researched online at www.michigan.gov/dnr.
Private v. Public land
Many people believe that the DNR is only concerned with public land, and has no say in private land. This is not the case. There is a lot of private land, such as lumber-yielding lands, farms, and orchards for example which the owners permit to be hunted, trapped, and fished. Lumber-yielding lands are known as Commercial Forest lands, or CF’s. There are 2.2 million acres of such CF’s in Michigan.
Michigan has adopted a program by which private land can be accessed for hunting, and it is primarily directed at southern Michigan, where most of the state’s population lives. In 1977, Michigan started the Hunting Access Program, or HAP, to provide residents of southern Michigan hunting opportunities. More can be learned about this program by visiting www.mi.gov/hap.
DNR officer authority
DNR officers are just the same as regular city or state police officers in their powers and abilities. They also do not have any more power than city or state police officers, in that they do not have more power to search or arrest, and the usual laws regarding search and seizure, the 5th Amendment right to remain silent, and the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms are not any less important with DNR officers.
It is important to realize that violating the DNR regulations is the same as violating any other typical Michigan criminal law. If you are convicted of a violation of a DNR regulation, you’ll have a criminal record, you could face jail time, and it can impact your employment or education.
Examples of penalties for violating DNR regulations
Violation of permits, season, bag limits, shooting hours, and methods of taking game: $50 to $500 fine and/or up to 90 days jail
Illegal taking/possession of deer, bear, or wild turkey: $200 to $1,000 fine and 5 to 90 days in jail, restitution of $1,500 for bear, $1,000 for turkey or deer, plus revocation of hunting licenses for current year plus the next 3 years
Illegal use of artificial light (“shining”) with bow and arrow, crossbow, or firearm: $100 to $500 fine and/or 90 days jail, plus revocation of licenses for current year and the next year
Carrying a firearm while under the influence of alcohol or drugs: $500 fine and/or 90 days jail
Multiple Offender: 3 convictions within preceding 5 years: $500 to $2,000 fine and 10 to 180 days in jail.
What to do if approached by a DNR officer
The first thing to remember when confronted by any law enforcement officer, whether in the city or in the wilderness, is to remain polite, respectful, and obey their directions. This will go a long way when your attorney is later attempting to get the charges dismissed or reduced. Secondly, you should exercise your right to remain silent, indicating to the officer you are respectfully declining to make any statements until you have had a chance to speak to your lawyer. It always pays to be polite and non-confrontational even if a DNR officer is being impolite or not respectful. The judge and prosecutor will find ways of justifying inappropriate behavior of public officers; however, your behavior will be closely scrutinized.
What to do if you are charged with an offense by a DNR officer
The DNR regulations are complex and an innocent act may be interpreted as a deliberate violation of the regulations. You should contact an experienced, respected, and reputable criminal defense attorney at your earliest opportunity. Your attorney will consult and advise you, and he or she will deal with the DNR and the prosecutor rather than you. You might think you can explain away an alleged violation, but this is almost certainly not true. Anything you say may be interpreted or outright twisted to be used against you. Let the defense professionals deal with the law enforcement professionals. Let LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. show you had no intention of violating the regulations, and if you did, it was an innocent mistake.
Defense Attorneys Representing Those Charged with Violations of DNR Regulations
The dedicated, experienced and zealous defense attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have successfully represented clients in DNR cases. We have a well-earned reputation for providing the highest quality defense and aggressive representation, while showing empathy and care for each client. Call us today at (248) 263-6800 or complete a Request for Assistance Form and we will contact you promptly.