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United States v. St. Pierre

Citation: 14 ELR 20457
No. No. 83-50028-01, 578 F. Supp. 1424/21 ERC 1236/(D.S.D., 09/01/1983)

The court rules that the sale of parts of a migratory bird falls under the felony provision of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, but a felony conviction under that provision would violate due process because the provision does not require criminal intent. The court first holds that the government's indictment, though only alleging sale of an object containing a few eagle feathers, a de minimus violation, nonetheless sets out all the elements of a crime under the Act and may not be dismissed. Next, the court construes § 6(b)(2) of the Act, which makes sale of a migratory bird a felony, to apply to sale of parts of a bird. Including the sale of bird parts accords with the purposes of the Act. Finally, the court holds that the felony penalty imposed by § 6(b)(2) offends due process. None of the criminal provisions of the Act require the government to prove criminal intent. This omission is acceptable in the misdemeanor provisions since: they concern a matter of pervasive public policy; they impose relatively small penalties; conviction does not gravely besmirch a defendant's reputation; the crime is not one taken from common law; and the requirements of the statute are not unreasonable in light of congressional policy. In contrast, the felony provision imposes a large penalty and conviction irreparably damages a person's reputation. The court holds that if convicted defendant may only be sentenced under the misdemeanor provision of the Act.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Philip Hogen, U.S. Attorney
P.O. Box 1073, Sioux Falls SD 57101
(605) 336-2980 ext. 395

Ted McBride, Ass't U.S. Attorney
P.O. Box 2893, Rapid City SD 57701
(605) 342-7822

Counsel for Defendant
James D. Leach
508 7th St., Rapid City SD 57701
(605) 348-5047