South Carolina's Point & Suspension Systems for Natural Resource Violations

South Carolina has established a structured point and suspension system to address violations of natural resource laws, ensuring the conservation of the state's diverse ecosystems and species. This system is divided into two main categories: the Game and Fish Point System and the Saltwater Point System, each tailored to specific geographical and jurisdictional areas within the state.

Game and Fish Point System

  • Scope: Applies to violations occurring inland of the saltwater/freshwater dividing line.
  • Impact: Suspension under this system prohibits individuals from engaging in hunting, fishing, gathering, trapping, or pursuing game and aquatic life within the state, including coastal waters up to the three-mile limit.

Saltwater Point System

  • Scope: Governs violations within the coastal waters of the state, seaward of the saltwater/freshwater dividing line.
  • Categories: Points are assessed under recreational or commercial categories based on the violation.
  • Suspension Threshold: Accumulating 18 or more points in either category results in suspension of the privileges related to fishing, gathering, or possessing fish, shellfish, or crustaceans within coastal waters for the affected category. This suspension does not impact inland freshwater fishing privileges, with specific exceptions for shad, herring, and sturgeon.

Point Accumulation and Reduction

  • Assessment: Points are assessed to an individual's record upon conviction of listed violations.
  • Reduction: Half of the points are reduced for each full year the individual receives no additional points.
  • Mandatory Suspension: The Department of Natural Resources is required to suspend the privileges of anyone accumulating 18 or more points.

Statutory Suspensions

Beyond point-based suspensions, certain violations lead to mandatory suspensions as dictated by South Carolina law. These are referred to as "Statutory Suspensions," with specific examples detailed in the regulatory framework.

Suspension Appeals

  • Process: Individuals notified of a suspension may appeal under the South Carolina Administrative Procedures Act, focusing solely on the suspension, not the conviction itself.
  • Temporary Relief: Pending the appeal, the initial suspension may be temporarily lifted until a final decision is made.
  • Outcome: The appeal's resolution can either confirm the suspension, leading to its continuation, or dismiss it based on a finding in favor of the individual or recognition of an error in the initial suspension.

Additional Considerations

  • Further Violations: Violating natural resources law while under suspension can lead to extended suspension periods.
  • Fraudulent Purchases: Acquiring a license or permit during suspension is considered fraudulent and carries specific penalties.
  • Non-Compliance Penalties: Failure to settle fines or restitutions may also result in suspension.
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