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Attacking protected species can result in a jail sentence

Imagine going to the beautiful Hawaiian Islands to see your favorite species of bird. A few friends want to hunt or chase after them. You go along with it, but several die in the act. Not long after, you find yourself facing serious penalties and are arrested.

This is what happened in a recent case involving a young man and his friends who attacked seabirds at a local nature reserve in Oahu. The teen, then 18, and two younger friends had been camping in 2015 when they attacked and killed at least 15 Laysan Albatrosses that were nesting near the Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve.

The teen in this case faced the brunt of the penalties because he was 18 at the time of the act. The other teens were underage, so they were taken through the juvenile courts. As a result, it was highly important for the 18-year-old man to have a strong defense.

Why was killing the birds a serious offense?

Killing or harming threatened or endangered species can lead to up to $50,000 in fines and six months imprisonment. The Laysan Albatross is fairly common among the Hawaiian islands, however they are protected because of being a priority species. That means that the species is one of the most culturally, economically and/or ecologically important species in the world. Only three species of albatross live in the North Pacific, with the Laysan Albatross being the most common.

What happened in this case?

As a result of pleading guilty in court to charges including theft and animal cruelty, the teen received a penalty of 45 days in jail. He will also pay around $1,000 in restitution and need to spend 200 hours completing community service. He choose to seek mental health treatment and expressed remorse for his actions, leading to a lesser penalty for the acts.

In cases where you face severe fines and penalties, a defense can help. Sometimes, admitting your actions can help you preserve your future.

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  • United States District Court, Northern District of California
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