So apparently there's this one case where ignorance of the law actually is an excuse (one that doesn't require you to be a police officer seizing a citizen's cellphone camera). The Department of Justice has a policy dating back to the '90s where they will not prosecute somebody for killing an endangered animal unless they are sure the offender knew it was protected.
An activist group is now suing the DOJ over this guideline, claiming it's being used to let people get away with murder – animal murder. The Los Angeles Times reports:
Critics charge that the 15-year-old McKittrick policy provides a loophole that has prevented criminal prosecution of dozens of individuals who killed grizzly bears, highly endangered California condors and whooping cranes as well as 48 federally protected Mexican wolves.
The policy stems from a Montana case in which Chad McKittrick was convicted under the Endangered Species Act for killing a wolf near Yellowstone National Park in 1995. He argued that he was not guilty because he thought he was shooting a wild dog.
McKittrick appealed the conviction and lost, but the Justice Department nonetheless adopted a policy that became the threshold for taking on similar cases: prosecutors must prove that the individual knowingly killed a protected species.
The Department of Justice isn't exactly known for its reluctance to file federal charges at people. Activists and federal wildlife managers, however, believe the rule is being used as an excuse for hunters to play dumb.
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