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Spotlighting Big Game

In Washington state, Spotlighting Big Game is broken down into two levels, second degree and first degree. Our firm has experience defending both levels of this offense.

Spotlighting Big Game in the Second Degree is defined as hunting big game with the assistance of a spotlight, artificial light or night vision equipment. It is also required that you (or an accomplice) are in possession of a firearm or bow at the time. This offense is a gross misdemeanor, meaning there is a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.undefined

Spotlighting Big Game in the First Degree is defined in the same way as above, but with the added element that the defendant has a prior conviction for another crime involving big game. This first degree offense is a class C felony, meaning there is a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. While 5 years sounds like a lot of time, under the Washington sentencing guidelines a person with no prior felony convictions would face only 0-60 days in jail rather than the statutory maximum.

In our experience as defense attorneys, the crime of spotlighting is often coupled with other charges such as hunting after hours. We often see the charge after the WDFW agents have set up a decoy to try to bait someone into shooting after hours or during closed season. The WDFW agents often will claim that the "artificial light" that was used was the car headlights, even when there is a lot of light in the evening sky. Whether the headlights were actually being used as “artificial lighting” is for the jury to decide. Rarely have we seen an individual actually go out looking for deer after dark with a Q-beam or the like. Often the charge is a result of a misunderstanding. In rural locales it is not unusual for ranchers to look for cattle or other livestock with a spotlight, and they simply always have a rifle in their truck.

If you would like to discuss your spotlighting charge with one of our criminal defense lawyers, please feel free to give us a call.