Facing Cockfighting Charges in Los Angeles?

How Cockfighting is Defined Under California Law

Cockfighting is an age-old blood sport in which male roosters (cocks or gamecocks), which are specifically bred for fighting, are outfitted with spurs or small knives attached to their legs and fight in an arena ("cockpit") until one of the roosters is killed or refuses to fight. The primary purpose of cockfighting is for gambling and entertainment. This death sport has been around for thousands of years.

Cockfighting is illegal in every state in the U.S. It is a felony in 39 states and can be a felony or a misdemeanor in California. It is also a federal crime, prosecuted under the United States Animal Welfare Act, 7 U.S.C. § 2156(a). California has recently passed amendments to existing laws that significantly increase the penalties for engaging in, sponsoring, and selling equipment for or watching cockfighting.

Cockfighting Laws in California – Penal Code Section 597:

Allowing Cockfighting on Your Property—Penal Code § 597b

Causing or allowing on your property a cockfight for amusement or gain, is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year and/or a maximum $5,000 fine. A second offense may be charged as a felony punishable in state prison for up to three years and a fine up to $25,000.

Being a Spectator at a Cockfight—Penal Code § 597c

Being a spectator at a cockfight is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in county jail for up to six months and/or $5,000 in fines.

Possessing Cockfighting Implements—Penal Code § 597i

Manufacturing, buying, selling, bartering, exchanging, or possessing any cockfighting implements (i.e., gaffs, slashers) or any other sharp implement designed to be attached to a rooster's leg is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year and/or a maximum $10,000 fine. If convicted, all cockfighting tools and implements must be forfeited.

Possessing, keeping or training any rooster (or fighting bird) to be used in cockfighting is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year and/or a maximum $10,000 fine. Although a second offense is still charged as a misdemeanor, the fine may go up to $25,000.

Legal Defenses

If the cockfighting charge is brought under Penal Code Section 597j, the prosecution has to prove the defendant's roosters were being kept and used for cockfighting and not for legitimate agricultural purposes. One of the things that prosecutors will be looking for is roosters with their combs, waddles and spurs removed.

If an additional charge under Penal Code Section 597j is brought because of alleged possession of cockfighting tools (e.g., razors made for rooster legs, training equipment and wager cards) the prosecutors will have to prove a similar case for the items seized at the scene of the crime. Let our firm defend you in the face of criminal charges.

Defenses Available in Cockfighting Cases:

  • No Criminal Intent — This is a key point of attack for a criminal defense lawyer in most types of California cockfighting cases. If watching a cockfight is charged under Penal Code Section 597c (watching a cockfight) prosecutors must prove the defendant was aware and knowingly participated as a spectator. If the defendant accidentally witnessed or accidentally encountered the cockfight, the prosecutor could have a problem proving the case.
  • No Proof of Ownership — The lack of ownership defense can apply to land on which the cockfighting took place, gamecocks and cockfighting tools. California prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the alleged cockfight organizer owned or controlled the land where the cockfighting took place; or that an alleged gamecock owner or trainer actually owned the gamecocks. This may be difficult to prove since roosters are not licensed for this type of activity.

Contact Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners Today

If you or someone you know is facing cockfighting charges or being investigated for animal cruelty in Los Angeles, it is important you contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer immediately. Taking a proactive approach during a criminal investigation and prior to criminal charges being filed can mean the difference between no charges being filed or facing a serious case. At Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners we have the knowledge and experience to defend against cockfighting charges.

We are ready to pursue all legal options in order to have your charges substantially reduced or dismissed. We are ready to discuss your case and help you put together the best legal plan for your particular circumstances.

Contact a Los Angles criminal defense attorney for a no-cost initial consultation.