Southeastern, N.C. - Archie Williams could spend the rest of his life in prison for poaching 216 Venus Flytrap plants out of Green Swamp Game Land in Bolivia.
If each of his 216 counts of felony taking of the vulnerable species is prosecuted, under the state's Class H felony sentencing guidelines, Williams could serve 72 years, to a maximum of 450 years. However, it's not likely Williams' maximum sentence gets carried out.
After news of the arrest, the first large-scale felony Venus Flytrap arrest in years, Port City Daily received multiple questions about the case. Readers wanted to know if something like this had happened before, and how the law worked. Readers also wanted to know: Why is it a felony for this person to take Venus Flytraps when developers frequently clear land with flytraps likely on it, without so much as a fine?
Turns out, the vulnerable species' protection is strongest on public lands. Taking just one Venus Flytrap from the public domain - a Class H felony - could result in four to 25 months in prison. Stealing the plant from someone else's private land, without written permission on hand, is also a felony.
However, under the state's plant conservation laws, specifically 02 NCAC 48F .0407 (3), property owners aren't required to obtain a Protected Plant Permit to collect or remove flytraps from their own property. But if they wanted to sell the plant, they would need the permit.
J.D. White, a Wildlife Resources Commission master officer, said his team has reason to believe Williams was in a pattern of stealing the tiny carnivorous plant. When White and his colleague approached Williams, White said they were lucky to catch him during his allegedly weekly routine.
The difference between what the officers caught Williams doing, and, say, what developers do, comes down to public versus private land use, according to White.
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