DNR citations

Your Maryland Lawyer has a fishing license. Doesn't mean I catch anything.

  • Q. What’s the difference between a carp and a lawyer?
  • A. One’s a scum-sucking, bottom-feeding scavenger. The other is a fish.

Yes, your Maryland lawyer loves a good lawyer joke, especially ones about fishing.  But understand if you’re fishing without a license and get some DNR citations, you could be jumping into a fish fry of legal problems.

What are DNR Citations?

DNR Citations (or the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Criminal Citations) are issued by either local police or Natural Resources Police.  If you get one, make no mistake, you’re violating a Maryland criminal law and can be subject to serious fines and even the possibility of incarceration. 

While oftentimes these citations can be resolved quickly and without any type of conviction being lodged on your record; the DNR police take DNR citations very seriously and you should too, because if you don’t you could end up spending a few days in the slammer.  One recent example of this is the tubers on the Upper Big Gunpowder river; a Baltimore Sun article can be found detailing the news here.

Common Maryland Criminal Law Violations & Penalties

As your Maryland lawyer, I just want to illustrate some of the more common DNR citations as well as some of the more unusual citations and their penalties.  If you review the fines and jail time, you can see that these are no laughing matter.

  • Fishing without a license – Maryland Natural Resources Code § 4-604, 4-701 lays out the basic requirements that all fishermen over the age of 16 possess a valid fishing license.  Other sections in the same DNR title layout requirements for crabbing and licensing for other types of sea creatures (turtles, oysters, etc).  The penalty for violating any of these DNR citations is in § 4-1201.  (a) First offense…guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, is subject to a fine not exceeding $ 1,000, with costs imposed in the discretion of the court.  The penalties only go up from there for repeat offenses.
  • Hunting without a license – Maryland Natural Resources Code § 10-301 lays out the basic requirements that all hunters over the age of 16 possess a valid hunting license.  There are many different types of hunting licenses, such as bird, waterfowl, small game, buck, doe, and the always popular bear.  The penalties are severe: § 10-1101.  (a) Each game bird or mammal taken illegally constitutes separate offense…(b) First offense…guilty of a misdemeanor…a fine not exceeding $ 1,500, with costs imposed in the discretion of the court. (c) Second or subsequent offense…a fine not exceeding $ 4,000, or imprisonment not exceeding 1 year, or both, with costs imposed in the discretion of the court.
  • DUI on a Boat – carries the same penalties and points as a standard driving Maryland DUI.  See Maryland Natural Resources Code § 8-738 and our previous post here.  Technically they are a bit different, and each case would require special review.
  • Reckless operating of a vessel (boat) – Maryland Natural Resources Code § 8-738.2. (a) Prohibited. — A person may not:  (1) Operate a vessel recklessly or in a manner that may endanger another or the property of another on a bay, creek, lake, river, or stream in the State; or  (2) Come into a wharf or bathing shore recklessly or in a manner that may endanger a person or property. (b) Penalty. — A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to:  (1) For a first conviction, imprisonment not exceeding 30 days or a fine of not less than $ 25 and not exceeding $ 200 or both; and  (2) For a second or subsequent conviction, imprisonment not exceeding 60 days or a fine not exceeding $ 500 or both.
  • Maryland State Park Alcohol ban & open container – In 2009 by regulation (not by legislation) the Maryland Park Service has banned alcohol from State Parks.  These DNR citations are a pre-payable $55 fine according to the DNR’s website.  They are not jailable offenses.  See COMAR 08.07.06.19  Intoxicants.  You should not be jailed for not going to court for this offense, but you could have driver’s license consequences for failing to pay the fine.
  • For a little fun: Operating a vessel with a number, name, or home port concealed: Maryland Natural Resources Code § 8-713.1 …(b) Prohibited. — A person may not operate knowingly a vessel on the navigable waters of the State while the number, name, or home port designation of the vessel, as assigned…concealed, covered, or defaced. (c) Penalty. — A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not less than 1 month and not exceeding 6 months or a fine of not less than $ 150 and not exceeding $ 500 or both. (this applies more to commercial vessels than recreational boaters, but still – 30 days mandatory?).

DNR Citations: Why You Should Care

There are a few very basic reasons why you may want to consider hiring a Maryland lawyer to fight your DNR citations.  First, you must appear in court for any DNR citation, you cannot simply pay the fine.  If you fail to appear, a warrant will be issued for your arrest.  Second, all of the DNR citations are Maryland criminal law violations and will be lodged on your permanent criminal record if you receive a conviction and the matter is not summarily dismissed.  Third, for repeat offenses, you could truly land in jail.

DNR Citations: The Bottom Line

If you find yourself charged with any DNR citations, you should strongly consider hiring a Maryland lawyer who is familiar with the Maryland Criminal laws and the DNR code.