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New Washington law criminalizes trafficking in animal parts

Many people in eastern Washington and Idaho have probably heard of crimes involving drug trafficking. However, there are also many criminal charges faced by local residents that can involve trafficking in other things, from stolen goods to human beings. Animal trafficking is an issue that few Spokane residents have likely heard about, although some people may find themselves having to enact a criminal defense since lawmakers passed a new proposed bill on the subject.

The measure, recently approved by Washington voters, is known as I-1401 and was proposed by Paul Allen, a Microsoft co-founder. The initiative would aim to combat the active trade of animal parts coming from endangered species. Certain animal parts can demand a hefty price, worth more than gold in some cases. From elephant tusks to rhinoceros horns, endangered animal parts can compose a lucrative trade involving international criminal gangs.

The new law criminalizes selling or trading certain animal-related objects. Specifically, I-1401 prohibits the buying, selling or distribution of products made from ten named endangered species. These animals include lions, tigers, elephants, rhinos, sharks and more. Those who violate the law face penalties including a fine of up to $10,000 and five years in prison.

Critics of the bill say it goes too far, and may unfairly penalize those who own heirlooms or antiques created during an earlier time. In the past, many species were not considered endangered, nor were there many of today's wildlife protection regulations in place. Thus, some looking to sell antiques might find themselves running afoul of the new law.

When a new law passes, those who face criminal charges or allegations because of it are likely to be confused and frustrated. A Spokane criminal defense attorney can help those affected by the new law form a legal strategy for obtaining a favorable outcome.

Source: The New York Times, "Washington State weighs far-reaching law on animal trafficking," Kirk Johnson, Nov. 1, 2015

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