Even before the Michael Vick case, dog fighting charges have always been taken pretty seriously. It took the celebrity status of one offender to bring light to the consequences and penalties associated with dog fighting in the U.S. This isn’t a charge to take lightly. Public opinion goes a long way, and even if you’re not convicted, you could be facing the stigma of merely being accused of a crime involving cruelty to animals. If you have been accused, arrested or charged with dog fighting, it’s a good idea to speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Felony Dog Fighting Charges
In all 50 states, dog fighting is a felony. Couple additional possible charges such as cruelty to animals, neglect or transporting fighting dogs over state lines, and you could be facing serious time in a federal prison facility. These aren’t misdemeanor charges. If convicted of a felony, you could go be incarcerated for a year or longer and face hefty fines. In many cases, illegal gambling charges could also be tacked on. Don’t get fooled into thinking only breeders, owners and trainers can get in trouble either. Simply being a spectator at a dog fight can land out in hot water.
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If you happen to own a dog-aggressive dog or your pet has gotten into some kind of scrap at the dog park, you don’t have to worry. Dog fighting is typically defined as the act of owning and or training dogs for the strict purpose of fighting. In many cases, they’re trained to fight to the death. The dog fights in question are usually either for gambling, entertainment or both.
Behaviors That Can Lead to Dog Fighting Charges
- Causing a dog to fight.
- Training a dog under circumstances where you show intent to have him or her fight.
- Let a dog fight, be trained to fight on premises under one’s control.
- Own or keep a dog trained to fight on premises used for dog fighting.
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$20.4 Million Fraud settlement that went to Mississippians
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$1.6 Million Fraud settlement for Mississippians
Potential Punishments For Dog Fighting Convictions
Depending upon the circumstances of your case, you could be facing a minimum of one year in prison. In all likelihood, if you’ve been charged with dog fighting, you can bet the prosecutor is dying to slap a plethora of additional charges related to gambling and other illegal activities on you. Typically, convictions involving dog fighting can lead to three to five years behind bars. Hefty fines could also be imposed, and you will have to live with the label of ‘dog fighter’ after your release. NFL star Michael Vick, who could easily afford the best lawyers in the nation, spent 21 months in prison with additional house arrest after his release. If you’re facing dog fighting charges in Mississippi, your top priority needs to be speaking with an experienced criminal defense lawyer to get the ball rolling on your defense.
Michael Vick’s Case
Michael Vick’s case brought dog fighting crimes to the mainstream media. Before his case, there was very little publicity about dog fighting. The Atlanta Falcon’s star quarterback’s fall from grace began with dog fighting charges and ended with a guilty plea to multiple felony charges and prison time. This was no backyard pit fight either. This was a well organize, well-financed, high-dollar fighting operation.
Felony Dog Fighting Charges in Mississippi
In Mississippi, even for a first offense, you could be facing between one and three years of federal incarceration. Even spectators in Mississippi can face felony charges. Even if you are convicted of just watching a dog fight, you could be facing a fine of up to $5,000 and at least a year in prison. Since dog fighting is usually viewed as a violent ‘blood sport,’ prosecutors take these charges very seriously and will do everything in their power to ‘throw the book at you.’
Zero Tolerance Policy
Since the Michael Vick case, communities have taken on a virtually zero tolerance policy when it comes to dog fighting. You don’t even want to be accused of it. Even initial arrests and charges can be incredibly damaging to your reputation and your future. Contacting a criminal defense attorney needs to be your first step after an arrest. Prosecutors will not hesitate to push for maximum sentencing and communities are ready to get out their pitchforks and torches.
If you are facing any kind of dog fighting charges, whether they involve gambling, breeding, training or just being a spectator, you need to seek skilled legal advice immediately. The team at Coxwell & Associates, PLLC is standing by to answer your questions at (601) 265-7766.