Hunting Under the Influence

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Even when it isn't hunting season, hunters are busy preparing it, but because the West Virginia legislature meets during the off-season, preventing hunting accidents hasn't been as much a priority as other issues.

Now, however, the House of Delegates has approved a bill making the killing of anyone who kills another person while hunting under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

"It's not on the books?" asked an amazed Jim Coventry. "Well, it should be. No one should be out hunting who's drinking or intoxicated."

"The ones I know are true hunters and they don't drink," said Barbara McBride. "They don't believe in it also."

The standard for intoxication would be the .08 legal limit recently signed into law by Gov. Bob Wise. The penalty would be as much as three years in prison, and a fine of up to $20,000.

To be sure, most hunting accidents aren't the result of people under the influence, but sponsors of the bill say there is a difference between a truly accidental shooting, and one in which drinking was a factor.

"I have brothers who hunt," says Linda Delaney. "They're pretty safe. They know where they're hunting and who they're hunting with."

Wounding rather than killing someone would be a misdemeanor. That would be punishable by a one-year sentence, and a fine of up to $15,000.

Existing law makes negligent killing while hunting a misdemeanor.