Ohio hunting law

By: Evin Bachelor, Friday, January 18th, 2019

We are full steam ahead in 2019, and so far we have held to our new year’s resolutions.  However, we want to take a quick look in the rearview mirror.  Ohio legislators passed a number of bills in 2018 that affect Ohio agriculture.  They range from multi-parcel auction laws to broadband grants, and oil & gas tax exemptions to hunting licenses.  Here are some highlights of bills that the Ohio General Assembly passed and former Governor Kasich signed in 2018.

  • House Bill 500, titled “Change township law.”  As mentioned in a previous blog post, the Ohio General Assembly made a number of generally minor changes to Ohio’s township laws with House Bill 500.  The changes included, among other things, requiring a board of township trustees to select a chairperson annually, modifying how vacating township roads and name changes are carried out, allowing fees for appealing a zoning board decision, clarifying how a board can suspend a member of a zoning commission or board of appeals, and removing the requirement for limited home rule townships to submit a zoning amendment or resolution to a planning commission.  To learn about more of the changes that were made, visit the Ohio General Assembly’s H.B. 500 webpage here.
  • House Bill 480, titled “Establish requirements for multi-parcel auctions.”  The Ohio Department of Agriculture regulates auctions, and H.B. 480 gave ODA authority to regulate a new classification of auctions: the multi-parcel auction.  Revised Code § 4707.01(Q) will define these as “any auction of real or personal property in which multiple parcels or lots are offered for sale in various amalgamations, including as individual parcels or lots, combinations of parcels or lots, and all parcels or lots as a whole.”  For more information, visit the Ohio General Assembly’s H.B. 480 webpage here.
  • House Bill 522, titled “Allow outdoor refreshment area to include F permit holders.”  A municipality or township may create a “designated outdoor refreshment area” where people may walk around the area with their opened beer or liquor.  Previously, only holders of certain D-class permits (bars, restaurants, and clubs) and A-class permits (alcohol manufacturers) could allow their patrons to partake in a designated open area.  H.B. 522 will allow holders of an F-class liquor permit to also allow their patrons to roam in the designated area with an open container.  F-class liquor permits are for festival-type events of a short duration.  However, holders of either permits D-6 (allowing Sunday sales) or D-8 (allowing sales of growlers of beer or of tasting samples) will no longer be eligible for the open container exception.  For more information, visit the Ohio General Assembly’s H.B. 522 webpage, here.
  • Senate Bill 51, titled “Facilitate Lake Erie shoreline improvement.”  As mentioned in a previous blog post, the primary purpose of Senate Bill 51 was to add projects for Lake Erie shoreline improvement to the list of public improvements that may be financed by a special improvement district.  S.B. 51 also instructed the Ohio Department of Agriculture (“ODA”) to establish programs to assist in phosphorous reduction in the Western Lake Erie Basin.  This adds to the previous instructions given to ODA in S.B. 299 regarding the Soil and Water Phosphorous Program.  S.B. 51 further provided funding for a number of projects, ranging from flood mitigation to MLS stadium construction.  For more information, visit the Ohio General Assembly’s S.B. 51 webpage here.
  • Senate Bill 299, titled “Finance projects for protection of Lake Erie and its basin.”  Largely an appropriations bill to fund projects, S.B. 299 primarily targeted water quality projects and research.  ODA received an additional $3.5 million to support county soil and water conservation districts in the Western Lake Erie Basin, plus $20 million to establish water quality programs under a Soil and Water Phosphorous Program.  Further, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (“ODNR”) received an additional $10 million to support projects that divert dredging materials from Lake Erie.  Stone Laboratory, a sea grant research program, received an additional $2.65 million.  The bill also created a mentorship program called OhioCorps, and set aside money for grants to promote broadband internet access.  For more information, visit the Ohio General Assembly’s S.B. 299 webpage here.
  • Senate Bill 257, titled “Changes to hunting and fishing laws.”  ODNR may now offer multi-year and lifetime hunting and fishing licenses to Ohio residents under S.B. 257.  Further, the bill creates a resident apprentice senior hunting license and an apprentice senior fur taker permit, and removes the statutory limits on the number of these permits a person may purchase.  The bill also creates a permit for a Lake Erie Sport Fishing District, which may be issued to nonresidents to fish in the portions of Lake Erie and connected waters under Ohio’s control.  For more information, visit the Ohio General Assembly’s S.B. 257 webpage here.
  • House Bill 225, titled “Regards plugging idle or orphaned wells.”  H.B. 225 creates a reporting system where a landowner may notify ODNR’s Division of Oil and Gas Resources about idle and orphaned oil or gas wells.  Upon notification, the Division must inspect the well within 30 days.  After the inspection, the Division must determine the priority for plugging the well, and may contract with a third party to plug the well.  To fund this, the bill increases appropriations to the Oil and Gas Well Fund, and increases the portion of the fund that must go to plugging oil and gas wells.  For more information, visit the Ohio General Assembly’s H.B. 225 webpage here.
  • House Bill 430, titled “Expand sales tax exemption for oil and gas production property.”  Certain goods and services directly used for oil and gas production have been exempted from sales and use taxes, and H.B. 430 clarifies what does and does not qualify for the exemption.  Additionally, property used to control water pollution may qualify for the property, sales, and use tax exemptions if approved by ODNR as a qualifying property.  H.B. 430 also extends the moratorium on licenses and transfers of licenses for fireworks manufacturers and wholesalers.  For more information, visit the Ohio General Assembly’s H.B. 430 webpage here.
  • Senate Bill 229, titled “Modify Board of Pharmacy and controlled substances laws.”  The Farm Bill’s opening the door for industrial hemp at the federal level has led to a lot of conversations about controlled substances, which we addressed in a previous blog post.  Once its changes take effect, Ohio’s S.B. 229 will remove the controlled substances schedules from the Ohio Revised Code, which involve the well-known numbering system of schedules I, II, III, IV, and V.  Instead, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy will have rulemaking authority to create schedules and classify drugs and compounds.  Prior to the removal of the schedules from the Revised Code, the Board of Pharmacy must create the new schedules by rule.  S.B. 229 also mentions cannabidiols, and lists them as schedule V under the current system if the specific cannabidiol drug has approval from the Food and Drug Administration.  For more information, visit the Ohio General Assembly’s S.B. 229 webpage here.

The end of 2018 effectively marked the end of the 132nd Ohio General Assembly, and 2019 marks the start of the 133rd Ohio General Assembly.  Any pending bills from the 132nd General Assembly that were not passed will have to be reintroduced if legislators wish to proceed with those bills.  Stay tuned to the Ag Law Blog for legal updates affecting agriculture from the Ohio General Assembly.

By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

A bill in Ohio’s House of Representatives proposes amending Ohio’s hunting and fishing laws to expand exemptions from hunting, fishing and trapping licenses for grandchildren of landowners.

House Bill 272, sponsored by Rep. Householder (R—Glenford) and Rep. Kick (R—Loudonville) proposes a change to current law, which permits grandchildren to hunt, fish or trap on their grandparent’s land without a license only up to the age of 18.  The proposal revises the law to allow grandchildren “of any age” to be exempt from licensing requirements when hunting, fishing or trapping on their grandparent’s land.

The bill also extends hunting and fishing privileges to veterans. The proposed legislation would provide a partially disabled veteran the same free hunting and fishing license privilege currently afforded to a veteran with a total disability.

“Hunting and fishing are family activities,” said Rep. Householder upon introducing the bill. “They should be enjoyed without government intrusion.”

H.B. 272 is currently before the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee and is available for viewing here.

By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

UPDATE:  The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals on September 17, 2015.  Read the Court's decision here

Hunting laws don't often reach our highest court, but the Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to review one man's challenge to an unlawful hunting action by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).  The case resulted in a fine of $27,851 against Huron County hunter Arlie Risner for the unlawful taking of an antlered white-tailed deer. 

The case began in 2011, when ODNR charged Risner with “taking a white-tailed deer from the lands of another without first obtaining written permission from the landowner or an authorized agent in violation of R.C. 1533.17.”  The Norwalk Municipal Court fined Risner $200 plus court costs and ordered forfeiture of the meat, which ODNR had seized from a processor.  Risner also had to reimburse ODNR $90 for meat processing costs.  The court later ordered Risner to turn over the deer's antler rack also, which he had taken to a taxidermist.

A few months following the court hearing, ODNR advised Risner that he also owed the state $27,851.33 as restitution for the value of the deer and that his hunting license was suspended until he paid the amount.   ODNR based its claim on Ohio Revised Code section 1531.201, which states:

“(B) The chief of the division of wildlife or the chief's authorized representative may bring a civil action to recover possession of or the restitution value of any wild animal held, taken, bought, sold, or possessed in violation of this chapter or Chapter 1533 of the Revised Code or any division rule against any person who held, took, bought, sold, or possessed the wild animal.”

$27,851 for killing a deer?

ODNR's claim for $27,851 in restitution derived from ORC 1531.201, which contains a formula for calculating the minimum restitution value of an illegally taken antlered white-tailed deer.  The formula determines the deer's value based on its the size.  The law also includes additionall provisions for exceptionally large deer, stating that a convicted violator who takes a deer with a gross score of more than 125 inches  "shall pay an additional restitution value that is calculated using the following formula:  Additional restitution value = ((gross score - 100)2 x $1.65)."

The deer Risner killed exceeded the 125 gross score limit, with a 20-point rack and a gross score of 228 inches.  ODNR thus used the additional formula to determine Risner's restitution, which escalated the demanded payment to over $27,000.

Challenges by both parties

Risner refused to pay ODNR’s restitution order and the agency began enforcement proceedings in court.  Risner argued that the fee violated his constitutional rights and that ODNR could not seek restitution because the agency had already chosen its remedy of seizing the deer meat and antlers.  The Huron County Court of Common Pleas avoided the constitutional issues but agreed with Risner that the plain language of ORC 1531.201 prevented further restitution because ODNR had already been awarded possession of the deer and antlers in prior court proceedings.   Both Risner and the Huron County court focused on the “or” in the statute’s language, which states that ODNR “may bring a civil action to recover possession of or the restitution value of…” an animal.  The "or" set up a choice either one remedy or the other, according Risner and to the common pleas court.

ODNR appealed the decision to Ohio’s Sixth District Court of Appeals.  The appeals court disagreed with the lower court.  The court unanimously concluded that ODNR did in fact have authority to recover the restitution value for the deer.   “The statute, on its face, does not restrict ODNR from bringing a civil action to recover the restitution value if wildlife officers have already seized parts of the wild animal,” said the court.  “Since Risner had no title to or ownership interest in the seized wild animal parts,” the court explained, “ it is illogical to construe ORC 1531.201 to require ODNR to choose between possession of the unlawfully taken parts or restitution for the unlawfully taken deer.” 

Additionally, the appellate court noted that ORC 1531.201 contained “additional” provisions for restitution assessments for deer in excess of 125 points, explaining that "[w]e must presume that in enacting a statute, the General Assembly intended for the entire statute to be effective. * * * Thus, all words should have effect and no part should be disregarded."  The court also stated, however, that nothing in its decision would prevent Risner from arguing for a deduction of the restitution value based on the monetary value the seized deer provided the state.

Risner requests review by Ohio Supreme Court

Risner asked the Ohio Supreme Court to review the decision.  “To allow the chief to bring a second action when a remedy has already been provided, chosen and carried out is nonsensical, frivolous, a violation of law and due process, and a waste of the Court's time and resources,” argued Risner.  “A second action provides for multiple sanctions and double (if not more) remedies…”

ODNR argued that the Supreme Court should not accept the case for review because the appeals court made a correct interpretation of the statute and because Risner had not been doubly penalized, as he had claimed.  “It is clear the General Assembly recognized the need to create R.C. 1531.201(B) as a separate civil mechanism to recoup the full economic loss of this valuable resource,” stated ODNR.   “The return of evidence did not make the State whole, nor should it be construed as a satisfaction of restitution liability…”

The question before the Supreme Court

Challenges to hunting laws don’t often pique the interest of the Ohio Supreme Court, especially those that don’t revolve around constitutional issues.  But this case does carry serious implications for both ODNR and Ohio hunters.   Does ORC 1531.201 allow ODNR to recover the parts of an antlered white-tailed deer and also to seek payment from the violator for the value of the deer, with additional payment for large animals?  If this is the correct interpretation, we can conclude that our legislature intended strong sanctions against violators in addition to ensuring that a violator would not be able to keep a poached animal.   Is this outcome more severe a punishment for unlawful takings of deer than the legislature intended? 

Or does the statute require ODNR to choose either possession or a restitution payment, but not both?   If this is the case, then ODNR must strategically determine how to handle an illegal taking of an antlered white-tailed deer.  Should ODNR claim the meat and antlers so that a violator does not benefit from breaking the law?  Or should ODNR allow the violator to keep the animal so that it can seek payment from the violator?  If the deer is quite large and the restitution payment high, should ODNR choose the higher payment and higher economic value over reclaiming the animal from the violator?  Is the goal of the statute punishment or regaining the economic value of an animal?

The Ohio Supreme Court will answer these and other questions when it determines the correct interpretation of ORC 1531.302 later this year or next.

Read the Court of Appeals decision in Risner v. Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources, Div. of Wildlife.

UPDATE:  The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals on September 17, 2015.  Read the Court's decision here

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