Under present law, one merely has to be in possession of a loaded firearm on a street, public road, highway, levee, or railroad to be charged with illegal hunting from a roadway without any clarifying language.
Senate Bill 2219, authored by state Sen. Joseph Seymour (R-Vancleave), would change existing law to require that one would have to have a firearm in their hands or on the external surface of a vehicle before a ticket for illegal hunting from a roadway can be issued. The bill would also add language that would protect those engaged in lawful action to protect their property or livestock.
The number of tickets issued, which can range in cost from $100 to $500, for those with their weapons in their trucks are on the rise statewide.
Seymour says it’s a Second Amendment issue and should be fixed. He also said most hunters caught in the dragnet just pay the ticket rather than fighting in court.
Brandon Smith of Hattiesburg was on the side of the road in the Desoto National Forest trying to get some of his dogs back. His hunting day had ended and two of his weapons, a rifle and a shotgun, were loaded and in his truck. An officer from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks pulled over and ticketed Smith for hunting from the road.
In 2017, Josh Lloyd of Vancleave was ticketed for the same offense despite having his rifle in his truck. He’d pulled off the road to get some of his dogs as his hunting day was finished, with his rifle in the truck. A MWFP game warden saw him and ticketed him for the same offense.
Larry Perry, a Perry County native, was on his way to his camp in the early evening this year. Same story, different verse. He was trying to gather his dogs to head back to his camp with a loaded rifle in his truck. A MWFP game warden issued him a ticket even though he hadn’t taken his rifle out while he was parked.
Both Lloyd and Perry fought their tickets in court even though the cost of doing so, according to Lloyd, was more than the ticket itself. Lloyd said it was the principle of the thing that made him fight the ticket.
Seymour also has a bill that would clarify the standard by which conservation officers can search a vehicle or premises or make an arrest for violations of the state’s game laws. SB 2275 would put state conservation officers under the probable cause standard, which is the one that governs every other law enforcement officer in the state.
Probable cause is when there is a reasonable basis for belief by law enforcement that a crime has been committed, which can authorize a warrantless search or even an arrest.
Right now, the law only says for cause, which could be considered a lower standard.