Newly Passed Legislation Could Impact Wildlife Prosecutions
Mississippi Conservation Law Enforcement Officers put their lives on the line protecting the wildlife, fisheries and natural resources of this state every day. The sportsmen and citizens of Mississippi rely on these officers to enforce the laws that conserve our wildlife and protect our sporting heritage for future generations. However, despite the hard work and diligence of these officers in building cases against wildlife violators, some of these cases are being dismissed despite overwhelming evidence that should warrant a conviction.
Violations of wildlife and fisheries laws in Mississippi are brought before the Justice Courts in their respective counties and many of those courts see repeated violations from the same violators. The passage of Senate Bill 2628 during the 2017 Legislative session will allow for court reporters to be present during Justice Court proceedings at the expense of the person or entity who wishes to make a record of the proceedings. The amended law, which was championed by the Mississippi River Landowners Alliance and the Mississippi Wildlife Federation, went into effect on July 1 and allows for parties, victims of crimes and property owners where crimes were committed, along with other interested entities such as law enforcement agencies, to hire court reporters to record the proceedings of the court session. SB 2628 will provide a means of accountability for law enforcement officers, agencies, landowners and citizens who feel that wildlife violations are not being given their due diligence. A list of available court reporters throughout Mississippi can be found at https://courts.ms.gov/Newsite2/cle/cr_roster_2015.pdf
The actual language of Senate Bill 2628 reads as follows:
“Any attorney of record or interested entity in any cause pending in a court, including justice court, which does not provide an official court reporter, may, in the discretion of the attorney or interested entity, record or have recorded any court proceeding in the cause by mechanical means or stenographically. Any expenses incident thereto shall be borne by the party or parties represented by the entity or attorney of record. The record of the court proceeding shall be used for impeachment purposes only. An interested entity includes, but is not limited to, the victim of a crime or a property owner on whose property a crime has been committed.”