Free Consultation to Review Your Legal Options
Facing a Federal Violation or Notice of Petty Offense? Work with Our Highly Skilled Criminal Defense Today.

Snowmobile Violations Attorney

There has been an increase in the number of citations and charges brought against snowmobilers the last couple of decades in Washington.snowmobile crime lawyer This is partially due to the fact that environmental groups are pressuring the authorities to crack down on potential violators. Additionally, forest service agents are able to monitor what is occurring in remote locations through trail cams, drones and aircraft, and they receive tips from other people in the outdoors to issue a “notice of violation.” Our firm has assisted snowmobilers on a wide variety of charges in both state and federal court. We offer free consultations on criminal matters, and we look forward to speaking to you. Here are a few common citations for snowmobilers:

36 CFR § 261.18(a) Possessing or Using a Motor Vehicle, or Motorized Equipment Except as Authorized by Federal Law or Regulation

It is common for the Forest Service to issue a Notice of Violation for a snowmobile in a closed area. This offense is punishable by up to 6 months in prison and a fine of $5,000. federal snowmobile notice of violationThe crime is a class B misdemeanor under federal law and also falls within the “petty offense” classification. This charge is one of many created by the Secretary of the Interior as authorized under16 USCA § 551. Wilderness areas are closed to snowmobilers within certain parts of the Colville National Forest and the Wenatchee-Okanogan National Forest as well as the Ross Lake National Recreation Area and the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. Although it varies somewhat from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, many federal judges take the position that there is no mens rea for this offense, meaning the U.S. Attorney does not have to prove that a person entered into the closed area intentionally or knowingly. If you are cited with this offense, please call our office to learn about what we can do to assist in defending you.

36 CFR § 261.13 Possessing or Operating a Motor Vehicle on National Forest Land in a Prohibited Area

This is a common offense to be cited for related to parking a truck and trailer when hauling a snowmobile. How it works is under the 2005 Travel Management Rule, every national forest must create their own MVUM (motor vehicle use map) which shows where people are allowed to drive. Federal law does not require signs to be posted, and it is best to keep the map with you when looking for a jump-off point for snowmobiling. This offense is also applied for parking in an incorrect area. Vehicles cannot be parked so as to block or restricting access on roadway or to pose a hazard. See 36 CFR 261.12(d) and 36 CFR 261.10(f). A violation of these laws is subject to a penalty of not more than $500 or 6 months in jail.

36 CFR § 261.9 Damaging a Natural Feature or Other Property of the United States.

This offense is common in snowmobile prosecutions when it is alleged that the snowmobiling (in a closed area) did some sort of damage to the environment such as damage to saplings or that it contributed to an avalanche or caused ruts in the soft ground. We have also seen this offense charged for alleged intentional damage done to fences or damage to trail cameras. Under law the offense of “damaging any natural feature” is a misdemeanor.

43 CFR § 420.12 Snowmobile DUI, Reckless Driving and Safety Equipment Violations

Under federal law it is a misdemeanor to drive a snowmobile when under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or in a manner that is reckless, careless or negligent, or in excess of the speed limits. It is also contrary to law to drive in a manner that is likely to irreparably cause damage to wildlife, or in a manner so as to become an unreasonable nuisance to other users of Reclamation lands.

Snowmobile Violations Under Washington State Law

Although the strictest enforcement comes from the federal authorities, there are also rules under state law that govern the use of snowmobiles. Most of the violations that we see in the state courts are citations for operating a snowmobile on public roadways. By law, a snowmobile can cross a roadway at a 90 degree angle after stopping fully, or when the road way is closed due to snowfall, or when on a designated trail. The laws of the State of Washington also prohibit using a snowmobile in such a way to endanger human life or in such a way as to harass wildlife.

In Washington, the Winter Recreation Program provides designated Sno-Parks, and parking areas close-by for vehicles. There are two types of Sno-Parks, those for snowmobiles and those for non-motorized sports. It is against the law to park on highway interchanges. Under law a snowmobile is defined as a self-propelled vehicle with a curb weight less than 1,000 pounds primarily intended for off-road use that is driven by track or tracks and steered by skis. (50 C.F.R. § 36.2). It is unlawful to tow anything not intended to be towed by a snowmobile, and the sled must have a rigid hitching mechanism. There also many safety and equipment requirements and age requirements.