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Unofficial Opinion 97-16

Unofficial Opinion 97-16

May 29, 1997
To: 

Chief Magistrate
Magistrate Court of McIntosh County

Re: 

Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 27-3-1(a) applies to persons engaged in hunting who enter upon property of others without permission, but does not apply to intrusions by hunting dogs.

This responds to your request regarding whether O.C.G.A. § 27-3-1(a) applies to persons engaged in hunting whose dogs enter land of others without permission. To my understanding, at the present time, you do not have a case involving this issue pending before you. You state, however, that you are concerned about the issue because of existing conflicts between hunting clubs operated for people hunting with dogs and those operated for people who do not use dogs. The problem arises because the two types of clubs frequently are located adjacent to one another and the dogs of one club enter areas operated by hunting clubs that do not use dogs.

The provision to which you have directed my attention states, in relevant part, as follows:

It shall be unlawful for any person to hunt upon the lands of another or enter upon the lands of another in pursuit of wildlife, with or without a license, without first obtaining permission from the landowner or lessee of such land or the lessee of the game rights of such land.

O.C.G.A. § 27-3-1(a).

You suggest that this language may be construed to apply when a hunter enters land of another without permission or allows his or her dog to go upon land without permission to do so.

Upon considering your request under pertinent rules of statutory construction, I conclude that O.C.G.A. § 27-3-1(a) applies to persons engaged in hunting who enter the land of others without permission, but does not apply to intrusions by hunting dogs. Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 27-1-38, a person who violates O.C.G.A. § 27-3-1(a) is guilty of a misdemeanor. Since O.C.G.A. § 27-3-1(a) establishes a crime, it must be strictly construed. Bankston v. State, 258 Ga. 188, 190 (1988); Burmaster v. State, 233 Ga. 753, 755 (1975). It must also give adequate warning of what conduct is criminal. Price v. State, 253 Ga. 250 (1984). A reading of the provision indicates that it applies to "persons" hunting upon the land of others and contains no language clearly addressing the responsibility of hunters for intrusions by their dogs. In addition, there is no evidence of a legislative intent to make hunters responsible for intrusions by their dogs. Accordingly, O.C.G.A. § 27-3-1(a) does not apply unless a person engaged in hunting enters property of another without permission.

Therefore, in my unofficial opinion, O.C.G.A. § 27-3-1(a) does not apply to persons lawfully engaged in hunting whose dogs enter the lands of another without permission.

Prepared by:

ISAAC BYRD
Senior Assistant Attorney General