Natural Resources Court Program Expands
Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties set monthly dates for violations
A Maryland program that sets aside certain days to hear only natural resource cases has expanded to Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties. The program ensures that natural resource related violations are tried under the same precedent, so that judgments are just and equal.The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Office of the Attorney General, and the District Court of Maryland kicked off the program in 2010 in Anne Arundel County and, upon its success, expanded it to lower Eastern Shore counties in summer 2011.
“Expanding this program to additional counties will further protect and preserve our natural world today and for generations to come,” said DNR Secretary John Griffin. “By trying these cases together, we can give each violation the attention it deserves, and deliver penalties that fit the crime.”
Under the program, natural resources cases including fishing, hunting, boating and tree expert violations from Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties are heard in the county where the case originated, on specific days each month, and prosecuted by a designated State’s Attorney from that county. For example, all Calvert County cases are heard on the third Friday of each month at 1 p.m.
“Thanks to other agencies helping DNR carry out its mission of increased enforcement and stricter penalties, we can help ensure that those who choose to exploit our natural and living resources do not get away with it,” said DNR Deputy Secretary Joe Gill. “Our goal is to ultimately expand this program to every county in Maryland.”
In May 2011, Governor Martin O’Malley signed into law legislation to protect Maryland’s fisheries and encourage shellfish aquaculture. As part of an overall focus on enforcement efforts to better protect Maryland’s public fishery resources, DNR also established a tougher penalty system for commercial fishing violations. Previously, a waterman had to receive multiple convictions before the Department could impose a suspension; the new system allows the agency to impose suspensions for a single conviction. Additionally, the State increased the penalty for engaging in commercial fishing with a suspended license, a revoked license or without a license, by establishing a fine of up to $25,000 and imprisonment for up to one year. To see other laws and penalties click here.