Drinking and a variety of activities do not mix in Mississippi, including drinking and driving, drinking and boating, and drinking and flying. I have been in my share of hunting camps, and – this may come as a shock to some deer season widows – occasionally you may find some alcohol at a hunting camp. I have discussed the state of Mississippi’s rich tradition with firearms and hunting here, and, congnizant of the unpredictable and dangerous results of mixing alcohol and firearms, Mississippi made “drinking and hunting” illegal in 2006. There is nothing wrong with pursuing each activity independently, perhaps with moderation. But mixing the two is dangerous, ill-advised, and illegal.
The laws involving hunting under the influence work differently than driving under the influence. First, the laws don’t even apply unless you are involved in a hunting incident in which your use of a weapon causes a serious bodily injury or death to another person. If you are involved in such an incident, and your blood-alcohol concentration is 0.08% or more, or you are found to be under the influence of any drug or controlled substance, then your hunting privileges can be suspended or revoked for two years, in addition to any other punishments that may be imposed. Any test to determine your blood-alcohol concentration (breath, blood, etc.) must be performed within three hours of the incident. See Mississippi Code Annotated § 49-7-303.
This law also operates similarly to Mississippi’s DUI “implied consent” law, in that you are allowed to refuse any tests of your blood-alcohol concentration, but if you do your hunting privileges will be suspended for four years. In addition, your refusal to submit to the tests can be used against you in your criminal case, or in any related civil proceedings (i.e., the person you shot sues you).
If you lose your hunting privileges, you must attend the hunter safety education course again before getting them back.
The game warden pulled us over and gave us all the breathalyzer, then started handing out tickets. Can he do that?
No. The way the law works is this: Unless your “use of a weapon caused an injury or death to a person,” the implied consent laws do not apply. The game wardens can’t go through the woods randomly testing hunters. Even if such an incident with a firearm occurs, you can still refuse any testing, but as explained above you could lose your hunting privileges for the refusal.
Like DUI, this crime is defensible. Issues such as probable cause, qualifications of the arresting officer, and other issues are present in nearly every case. If you are involved in a hunting accident, or have a run-in with law enforcement while hunting, I will be glad to consult with you. Give me a call at 601-991-1099, or send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I am here to help.