Facing Cockfighting Charges in Los Angeles?

How Cockfighting is Defined Under California Law

Cockfighting is an age-old blood sport in which roosters are specifically bred for fighting. They are outfitted with spurs or small knives (gaff) 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 all 50 states. It is a felony in 39 states and can be a felony or a misdemeanor in California. 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 is also a federal crime in California, prosecuted under the United States Animal Welfare Act, 7 U.S.C. section 2156(a). This law makes it unlawful, to “knowingly sponsor or exhibit an animal in an animal fighting venture." An “animal fighting venture” is defined as “any event, in or affecting interstate commerce, that involves a fight conducted or to be conducted between at least two animals for purposes of sport, wagering, or entertainment.” This crime is punishable by up to five years in federal prison.

California Laws

Allowing Cockfighting on Your Property—Penal Code section 597b(b)

Causing or allowing cockfighting on your property 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 section 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 section 597i

Manufacturing, buying, selling, bartering, exchanging or possessing any cockfighting implements (or equipment) is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county and/or a maximum fine of $10,000. These implements include, but are not limited to, spurs, gaffs, slashers, training muffs, dummies, sparring gloves, boots, and medical supplies.

Owning or Possessing a Rooster for Exhibition Fighting - Penal Code section 597j

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 180 days in county jail 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.

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.

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. 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.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys

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 Angeles criminal defense attorney for a no-cost initial consultation.