AG: Judges Must Explain Loss of Fish and Game Privileges
HELENA – In a formal opinion released Wednesday, Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath held that judges must inform defendants accused of fish and game violations that they may lose their hunting, fishing or trapping privileges as a result of a conviction, plea or forfeiture of bond.
The opinion noted that although Montana statutes do not expressly require judges to inform a defendant of the potential loss of hunting, fishing or trapping privileges, the state’s laws do call for judges to explain the “direct” consequences of a guilty plea. McGrath noted that many of the state’s laws “make forfeiture of hunting, fishing and trapping privileges a mandatory consequence of a violation” and so such forfeiture is a “direct” consequence.
McGrath also held that by statute, the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is to notify individuals of the loss of fish and game privileges.
Hill County Attorney David Rice requested the opinion, in his role as chairman of the Courts of Limited Jurisdiction Committee. An attorney general’s opinion carries the weight of law unless a court overturns it or the Legislature modifies the laws involved.