Research Associate, Center for Effective Justice | TPPF
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Manfred Wendt | July 12, 2017
Every state has laws on the regulation of catching certain wildlife and for good reason. We don’t want our waters overfished or our wildlife overhunted. However, we must be careful with how we go about trying to dissuade this type of behavior using state sanctioned punishment. A recent incident in Louisiana shows why utilizing the criminal justice system as the first stop for citizens can lead to extreme results.
In the Pelican State, residents are only allowed to catch 50 frogs per boat. Three men on two boats went over this limit, catching 69 and 99 frogs, respectively. Their possible punishment? 90 days in jail and a $350 fine. That comes out to about 1.86 frogs per day and $2.08 per frog. No frogs were harmed in the heist, and all frogs were safely returned to the water.
This news story, which can be described as belonging in the bizarre over-criminalization pile, deserves a second look. Should people adhere to bag limitations? Absolutely. In fact, we encourage all Louisianans to familiarize themselves with the list of regulations for hunting seasons in the Pelican State. However, a fine of $350 and up to 90 days in jail for exceeding a bag limit is a punishment that is disproportionate to the crime – and financially burdensome to the taxpayer.
It costs Louisianans substantial amounts of money to lock someone up. Would those 168 frogs have been worth thousands in taxpayer dollars? No. Should a person receive a permanent criminal record when they don’t pose a serious threat to the community? The answer is also no.
For claiming to be the Land of The Free, the United States has a strange obsession with over-criminalizing every day, ordinary business activity. The Frog Caper case should serve as a warning to everyone that we need to re-think fines and jail sentences to prevent more cases like this from occurring in the future.