Is it Really a Federal Crime to Kill a Bald Eagle?

Posted on in Animal Cruelty

Illionois defense attorney,  Illinois criminal defense lawyerIn late November, a story emerged from Missouri that involved an injured eagle. The University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine confirmed that an eagle was shot and injured, a rare injury for an eagle to sustain. Veterinarians have helped repair the eagle’s wing that was injured but now, authorities are looking for a suspect that may have committed a federal crime.

The story has many people talking. Not only because it involved an injured bald eagle, but because it brought to attention something that many people thought was just a myth. Is it really a federal crime to kill a bald eagle? Yes, it is, and the eagle does not have to die in order for federal charges to stand. Even injuring an eagle, or any part of an eagle’s nest or eggs could also result in federal charges.

The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act

The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act has been in place since 1940 when Congress passed it as federal law. Congress enacted the legislation in response to the fact that the number of bald eagles was declining rapidly around the state. The Act originally only included the bald eagle. In 1962, the Act was expanded on by Congress to include golden eagles.

The Act makes it a violation of the law to own, sell, hunt, or even offer to sell, hunt, or own, bald eagles. While the Act certainly includes the living animals, it also includes eagle feathers, nests, eggs, and any body part of an eagle. Under the Act, even harassing an eagle is considered against the law, even if the eagle is not injured or killed as a result.

When a person owned eagles, or any part of an eagle, prior to 1940 when the law was passed, they are not violating the law. However, the Act does not provide any protection for individuals that sell an eagle, or any part of an eagle, regardless of when they acquired it.

Penalties Under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act

A person can face both criminal and civil penalties when they are found in violation of the Act.

Criminal penalties include a maximum fine of $5,000, imprisonment of one year, or both. When a person is found in violation of the Act for a second time, penalties are doubled. Additionally, when a person is convicted, any person that reported the crime will be paid $2,500.

Facing Charges? Our Illinois Federal Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help

A person may accidentally injure or kill a bald eagle. Also, like any other crime, sometimes the wrong people are accused. If you have been charged for a violation of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, call our skilled Chicago federal criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel today. We know how to defend against these charges and give you the best chance of a positive outcome. Call us today at 312-629-0669 to schedule your free consultation and to learn more about how we can help with your case.


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