NOTE: The Senate amendment to Senate Bill 1231 changed the bill significantly, requiring a change in the rating and an update to the bill description and analysis.
Bill Description: Senate Bill 1231 would use outstanding fines as a pretext to suspend the individual right to hunt, fish, and trap.
Does it violate the spirit or the letter of either the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution? Examples include restrictions on speech, public assembly, the press, privacy, private property, or firearms. Conversely, does it restore or uphold the protections guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution?
Senate Bill 1231 would amend Section 36-1402, Idaho Code, by adding a subsection that says, "Any person with outstanding fines or judgments of reimbursement or restitution from violations of this title [Title 36, Fish and Game] shall not be eligible to apply for any fishing, hunting, or trapping license, tag, or permit. Lifetime licenses shall be suspended until all fines, reimbursements, and restitution are paid in full."
The bill would also add language saying that "any person entering a plea of guilty or being found guilty or convicted of violating any of the provisions of this title may, in addition to any other penalty assessed by the court, have his hunting, fishing, or trapping privileges revoked for such period of time as may be determined by the court not to exceed three (3) years."
The bill would change a provision that currently allows the court to revoke these privileges of any person who "fails to comply with the requirements of a citation in connection with any such offense" to require such revocation, by changing the "may" to "shall."
Finally, the bill would amend Section 36-1404, Idaho Code, to change another instance of "may" to "shall," which would now require the court to "revoke the defendant's hunting, fishing or trapping privileges" if "the defendant is in arrears ninety (90) days or more" in paying fines.
Article I, Section 23 of the Idaho Constitution says, "The rights to hunt, fish and trap, including by the use of traditional methods, are a valued part of the heritage of the State of Idaho and shall forever be preserved for the people. …" It also says, "The rights set forth … shall not prevent the suspension or revocation, pursuant to statute enacted by the Legislature, of an individual’s hunting, fishing or trapping license."
It could be argued that Senate Bill 1231 would not violate the letter of the Idaho Constitution as it would be a "statute enacted by the Legislature" that prevents certain Idahoans from obtaining a fishing, hunting, or trapping license, tag, or permit.
There are some very troubling provisions and language in this bill, however, including the use of the phrase "hunting, fishing, or trapping privileges" to describe what are, in fact, constitutionally guaranteed rights. Moreover, something as minor as an unpaid fine should not be used as a pretext to deny individuals access to activities broadly recognized as a right and a valued part of the state's heritage.
Conditioning the exercise of individual rights on paying fines and fees (and obtaining licenses and permits) is fundamentally inconsistent with the concept of rights, which should be regarded as inalienable — meaning they may not be taken away by government or ceded by citizens.
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