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Timber Theft

What are treble damages, and how do they affect my timber theft case?

By May 31, 2021No Comments

Louisiana protects landowners from timber theft with a civil law that punishes theft. As punishment, the landowner can recover what is called treble damage.

In this blog, we will explain treble damages and what rights might be available to you in a timber theft case.

At the Jones Law Firm, we know all about timber theft in Louisiana, and we want to ensure that you are as knowledgeable as you can be about your case.

Treble Damages

Treble damages effectively means triple damages, triple the value of the stolen timber. Treble damages can be awarded in any unauthorized taking of timber. This specifically applies if the theft is intentional, but it can also apply if it was accidental.

Treble damages are authorized in what is known as the The Timber Trespass Statute

This amount of a potential award for the landowner is calculated to include:

  • The value of the felled trees, times three (treble)
  • The lost aesthetic value and functionality of the trees, if applicable (fruit trees for example)
  • The damage to the land around the tree while the theft occurred, especially if it was intentional

Bad Faith vs. Good Faith

I have written so far using words like can, or may, or should. Nothing in court is guaranteed, including in this case treble damages. If it is proven that the timber thief knowingly and intentionally cut down your timber, treble would apply. If it was an accident, treble damages might apply.

The determination comes down to whether or not the timber thief was in good faith or bad faith, whether or not he or she knew or should have known, and other complicating factors. 

Investigation before litigation and meeting the burden of proof during litigation are very often complicated and difficult. It is wise to hire a properly knowledgeable lawyer, like the Jones Law Firm, to handle all of this for you.

Criminal Charges

The landowner can collect treble damages from the timber thief, but the thief might also face criminal charges. There are investigative bodies that handle these cases, including local sheriffs and the department of Wildlife & Fisheries. 

In Louisiana, if theft occurs and the trespass is proven, it can be considered a felony when the amount of the stolen property exceeds $1,000 or more dollars of timber. Considering the value of most timber in Louisiana, it is not difficult to reach that $1,000 mark.

How to Avoid Timber Trespass Laws in Louisiana

For loggers and landowners, here are some practical tips to avoid timber theft:

  • Know and mark the boundaries of the property to be cut so you don’t accidentally cut down your neighbor’s trees.
  • Permission to cut down trees should always be reduced to writing. Contracts should include specific permission, the acreage and legal description of the property, the type and amount of trees to be cut, and any other details pertinent to your specific situation.  
  • Give specific and clear instructions on what trees to cut. Take particular note if the job is to include clear cutting (all trees) or thin cutting (only mature trees). 
  • Agree upon logging routes and restoration of damage done by logging equipment. 
  • Inform your neighbors of logging operations. Allow them the opportunity to confirm boundaries.

Contact a Louisiana Timber Theft Lawyer for more information

Whether you are the victim or accused of timber theft, consulting with a timber theft lawyer is vital. With the amount of money that treble damages can rack up, having someone on your side can help you tremendously in squaring the case.

At the Jones Law Firm, we want to help you navigate your timber theft case. That’s why we work hard and take the time to understand your unique situation. Contact us at (318) 442-1515 to get started working together!

  • Know and mark the boundaries of the property to be cut so you don’t accidentally cut down your neighbor’s trees.
  • Permission to cut down trees should always be reduced to writing. Contracts should include specific permission, the acreage and legal description of the property, the type and amount of trees to be cut, and any other details pertinent to your specific situation.  
  • Give specific and clear instructions on what trees to cut. Take particular note if the job is to include clear cutting (all trees) or thin cutting (only mature trees). 
  • Agree upon logging routes and restoration of damage done by logging equipment. 
  • Inform your neighbors of logging operations. Allow them the opportunity to confirm boundaries.
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