Eagle Feathers don’t match the high drama of Paul Manafort’s trial for bank fraud and money laundering. But a single eagle feather us topping the news in New York City today.
New York’s Governor, Andrew Cuomo, recently shared a story about picking up a feather lost by an eagle after it dived near his family’s canoe during a long weekend on an Adirondack lake.
The New York Democrat told reporters he still has the feather above his fireplace. That’s a major no-no.
The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 forbids the possession of eagle feathers by non-Native Americans. Convictions mean a fine of up to a year in jail and a $100,000 fine.
Officials with the Fish and Wildlife Service decided not to comment on Cuomo’s possession of the feather and referred questions to the U.S. Department of Justice.
It’s a law most Americans don’t know about. According to Cuomo’s office, the governor didn’t either. When the federal law was passed, bald eagles had almost disappeared from the lower 48. Use of DDT, an insecticide, decimated eagle populations and by 1963 fewer than 500 nesting pairs remained. DDT was banned in 1972 by the then new Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA’s action is credited with saving bald eagles.
In New York, restoration efforts have brought the bald eagle population back from just a handful in 1960.
5 Really Strange Laws In New York
The ban against private individuals owning Eagle feathers makes sense. There are still other laws on the books which make no sense and a person is a criminal if they violate one.
- No slippers past 10pm
- A license is needed to hang clothes on a clothesline
- Throwing a ball at someone’s head is illegal
- Selling pet hair
- People congregating in groups of two or more are banned from wearing masks
Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse
Arkady Bukh, a noted New York defense attorney, said, “A person can’t defend their actions by claiming they didn’t know their actions were illegal. That is true if they didn’t even realize they broke the law.”
Under America’s justice system, people are expected to know what the law requires. That doesn’t mean everyone has to be a legal expect — that’s not realistic. Een attorneys don’t know every rule and law there is.
It simply means people can’t defend their actions by claiming ignorance.
If the principle were not in place, it would be easy for persons to break a contract, ignore a neighbor’s right to privacy or even sell drugs if they could get by with arguing they didn’t know it was illegal.
But good people often make mistakes even with good intentions. They may break the law since they didn’t realize they are doing something illegal. America’s legal system is complicated and when people with good intentions go to court, judges often are understanding — unless certain kinds of crimes are involved.
After the Associated Press asked about the feather, Cuomo said he would either return it to the lake or give it to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife authority.
To get information about the law in general, there are several things a person can do:
- Contact an attorney
- Consult legal information websites
- Use services offered by the American Bar Association