US v. St. Onge, CR 87-32-M-CCL.

Citation676 F. Supp. 1044
Decision Date11 January 1988
Docket NumberNo. CR 87-32-M-CCL.,CR 87-32-M-CCL.
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff, v. Calvin Paul ST. ONGE, Defendant.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Montana)

Robert L. Zimmerman, Asst. U.S. Atty., Billings, for plaintiff.

Edward Cummings, Missoula, for defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

LOVELL, District Judge.

Before the court is the motion in limine of the United States, by which the government seeks to exclude certain evidence from the trial of this matter. The defendant evidently intends to present evidence that he believed he was shooting an elk at the time he allegedly shot the bear in question. The United States moves to prohibit such evidence on the ground that it does not constitute a defense to the crime charged.

Title 16, United States Code, Section 1538(a)(1)(G), provides that it is unlawful for any person to "violate any regulation pertaining to ... any threatened species of fish or wildlife ... promulgated by the Secretary of Interior pursuant to authority provided by this Act." Criminal liability may be imposed against "any person who knowingly violates any ... regulation" issued under the Act. 16 U.S.C. § 1540(b)(1). Under regulations promulgated by the Secretary pursuant to § 1538, it is unlawful for any person to "take any grizzly bear in the 48 coterminous states of the United States." 50 C.F.R. § 17.40(b)(1)(i).

As provided in the criminal penalty section, "knowingly" clearly is an element of the offense. The issue in this case is whether the government must prove that defendant knew he was shooting a grizzly bear at the time he pulled the trigger, or whether the government need only prove that he knowingly shot an animal which turned out to be a grizzly bear.

The court has found only one case that is closely on point. In United States v. Billie, 667 F.Supp. 1485 (S.D.Fla.1987), the defendant was charged with taking a Florida panther, an endangered species. He argued that the government was required to prove that he knew the animal he shot was a Florida panther, as opposed to a nonendangered species of panther. The court rejected this argument and ruled that the government "need prove only that the defendant acted with general intent when he shot the animal in question." Id. at 1493. The court's rationale was that the Endangered Species Act is a regulatory statute, enacted to conserve and protect endangered species, and that its purposes would be eviscerated if the government had to prove that the hunter recognized the particular subspecies protected under the Act. Id. at 1492-93.

This interpretation is supported by the legislative history of the Act. The House Report to the 1978 amendments demonstrates that Congress intended to make "criminal violations of the Act a general rather than...

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10 cases
  • Loggerhead Turtle v. County Council of Volusia County, Fla.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • 3 Agosto 1998
    ...County lacks the Service's permission to take sea turtles through artificial beachfront lighting. See generally United States v. St. Onge, 676 F.Supp. 1044, 1045 (D.Mont.1988) ("[T]he court intends to instruct the jury that the government must prove three elements beyond a reasonable doubt ......
  • WildEarth Guardians v. U.S. Dep't of Justice
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Arizona
    • 19 Junio 2017
    ......30) at 17 (citing McKittrick, 142 F.3d at 1177 ) (relying on United States v. St. Onge, 676 F.Supp. 1044, 1045 (D. Mont. 1988) (critical issue is whether act was done knowingly, not whether defendant recognized what he was shooting; ......
  • U.S. v. Zak, CR No. 06-30011-MAP.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • 14 Mayo 2007
    ...Id. at 1177 (citing H.R.Rep. No. 95-1625, at 26 (1978), reprinted in 1978 U.S.C.C.A.N. 9453, 9476); see also United States v. St. Onge, 676 F.Supp. 1044, 1045 (D.Mont.1988) ("The critical issue is whether the act was done knowingly, not whether the defendant recognized what he was shooting.......
  • U.S. v. Ivey
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 17 Diciembre 1991
    ...the law an element of criminal violations. See United States v. Billie, 667 F.Supp. 1485, 1492 (S.D.Fla.1987); United States v. St. Onge, 676 F.Supp. 1044, 1045 (D.Mont.1988). Adopting the appellants' argument that Section 1538(c) requires specific intent would thwart the purpose of Congres......
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7 books & journal articles
  • Environmental crimes.
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Vol. 46 No. 2, March 2009
    • 22 Marzo 2009
    ...of Communities for a Great Oregon, 515 U.S. 687, 697 n.9 (1995). (613.) See Babbitt, 515 U.S. at 697 n.9; United States v. St. Onge, 676 F. Supp. 1044, 1045 (D. Mont. 1988) (indicating that critical issue is whether defendant shot at animal knowingly, not whether defendant recognized animal......
  • Environmental crimes.
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Vol. 47 No. 2, March 2010
    • 22 Marzo 2010
    ...of the act a general rather than specific intent crime). (622.) See Babbitt, 515 U.S. at 697 n.9; see also United States v. St. Onge, 676 F. Supp. 1044, 1045 (D. Mont. 1988) (indicating that critical issue is whether defendant shot at animal knowingly, not whether defendant recognized anima......
  • Environmental crimes.
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Vol. 49 No. 2, March 2012
    • 22 Marzo 2012
    ...of the act a general rather than specific intent crime). (634.) See Babbitt, 515 U.S. at 697 n.9; see also United States v. St. Onge, 676 F. Supp. 1044, 1045 (D. Mont. 1988) (indicating the critical issue is whether defendant shot at animal knowingly, not whether defendant recognized the an......
  • Overcriminalization and the Endangered Species Act: Mens Rea and Criminal Convictions for Take
    • United States
    • Environmental Law Reporter No. 46-6, June 2016
    • 1 Junio 2016
    ...question, similarly ruling that knowledge that an action will take a particular species is not required. See United States v. St. Onge, 676 F. Supp. 1044, 1045 (D. Mont. 1988); United States v. Billie, 667 F. Supp. 1485 (S.D. Fla. 1987). 5. See Brief for United States in Opposition, McKittr......
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