CRIMINAL LAW LobstersPosted by Paul Macri - 11/06/09 at 05:06 pm
Effect of Policy Manuals
State v. Weeks, 2009 ME 33, 967 A.2d 716, Levy, J.
The defendant was charged with possessing female lobsters that were either marked with a v-notch or mutilated in a manner that could hide or obliterate the mark. The purpose of the statutes prohibiting possession of such lobsters is to preserve breeding stock. It is a strict liability crime.
There are materials on the Department of Marine Resources’ website explaining and depicting the v-notch system and exactly what is prohibited. A handbook provided to members of the Bureau of Marine Patrol, however, states that “a naturally regenerated flipper is considered legal.” The defendant argued that because some of the lobsters that he had had regenerated flippers, he could not be guilty of the crime based on this statement.
The Law Court disagreed. It reviewed the statutes, regulations, and legislative history and held that, even if the policy statement was ambiguous, the statute and regulations were sufficiently clear on the issue that a female lobster with a v-notch or a mutilated flipper where the v-notch should be could not be possessed irrespective of whether the flipper had been regenerated. The statement of policy simply explained that possessing a female lobster with a regenerated flipper was not, without more, illegal.