Logging is a big deal in Louisiana.
Forestry is the second-largest manufacturing industry in the state, and every day there are thousands of trees being cut down. So it’s bound to happen that, occasionally, some mistakes might be made.
But because logging is such an important part of life in Louisiana, the state also has some pretty strict laws against cutting down someone else’s trees without their permission.
If you find yourself accused of timber theft, you might be liable for some pretty hefty damages.
But don’t fret! There are a number of things you can do to protect yourself from totally breaking the bank.
Here are 3 things to do if you’re accused of timber theft in Louisiana.
1. Hire an attorney
The first step you should take is to contact an attorney who is well-versed in timber theft law in Louisiana. They’ll be able to help you navigate the process of mounting a defense and negotiating with the other party for a settlement.
They’ll also be able to help you understand the details of the law around timber theft in Louisiana.
Under Louisiana law, anyone who intentionally cuts down trees without the landowner’s permission has to pay three times the commercial value of the stolen timber, as well as the other party’s attorney fees and court costs.
The situation is a bit different when the trees were cut down by mistake– or “in good faith,” as the law describes it. In these situations, you might have misinterpreted a contract you had with the landowner, or you might have made an honest mistake because the property line wasn’t marked clearly.
However, even if this is the case, you might still be liable to pay damages to the owner of the trees, “if circumstances prove that the violator should have been aware that his actions were without the consent or direction of the owner… of the trees.”
In other words, if the owner of the trees can prove that you had all the information you needed to avoid cutting down their trees by mistake, you can still be liable for three times the commercial value of the stolen timber. The only difference is that you won’t have to pay their attorney fees and court costs.
Understanding these complications and the things that need to be proven, it’s important for you to hire an experienced timber theft attorney who will be by your side throughout the whole process.
Our team at The Jones Law Firm, for example, is experienced in these types of cases, and we are ready to discuss your case.
2. Collect evidence
In order to demonstrate that your case doesn’t qualify under the language we just discussed above, it’s important that you collect any evidence that can help prove the misunderstanding wasn’t your fault.
- Take photos of the scene. Maybe the landowner labelled the trees improperly, or the property line wasn’t clearly marked. If there are any other physical circumstances on the scene that would be relevant to your defense, make sure you have them captured on camera.
- Clarify the exact location of property lines. If this is a case of neighboring properties, it may be that the property line wasn’t marked at all. Hiring a professional surveyor to survey the boundary lines will clarify exactly who is the owner of the trees in question.
- Go over any contracts or agreements. If you had a contract or agreement with the landowner, they may try to make it seem like you are at fault for misinterpreting the contract. Go back and read over the exact language to make sure that you did, in fact, violate the terms of the contract. It may be that the language was vague, or that the mistake was on their part.
- Go over agreements with tree cutters. If you hired workers to cut down the trees for you, make sure that you gave them explicit instructions about which trees to cut.
By collecting all this evidence, you can help build a case that you were not aware that your actions were “without the consent or direction of the owner.”
3. Pay the damages promptly
If all of this fails, you may be required by the court to pay damages to the owner of the property. In this case, it’s important that you respond to this demand promptly.
According to the law, you may be liable for even more damages if you put it off:
If a good faith violator… fails to make payment under the requirements of this Section within thirty days after notification and demand by the owner… the violator shall also be responsible for the reasonable attorney fees and costs of the owner, co-owner, co-heir, or legal possessor.
An attorney will be able to help you move through the process of making this payment so you can move forward without incurring any further costs.
Hire a timber theft attorney in Louisiana today
Timber theft can be a serious offense in Louisiana, but that doesn’t mean that you are necessarily liable.
If you hire The Jones Law Firm, we will do our best to make sure you don’t pay a dime more than you have to. Get in touch with us today to get started on your case.