Download the FWC and Marine Sanctuary phone apps for no-go areas to avoid. CONTRIBUTED

Fishing is serious business in the Florida Keys, but so are fishing violations.

And so they should be, says attorney Drew Sando, a former prosecutor who is now a defense attorney, focusing his practice on Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recreational fishing cases and violations. and commercial.

“Previously, I worked as a special prosecutor to prosecute FWC cases and violations,” he said. “Some of the rules can be arbitrary and strange and many people may not know how serious they can get. In fact, one of my referral sources is from other lawyers, who recommend me as someone someone competent in this type of business and in this type of law.

Sando recently opened an office in Tavernier (by appointment) and looks forward to being part of the community, both on and off the water. He himself is a diver and fisherman who understands and appreciates the crucial importance of the marine resources and fragile environment of the Florida Keys.

“Of course, you will always have bad actors in this field and repeat offenders who know the rules (or should know the rules), which underscores the need for regulation,” he said. “But so many people are first-time offenders with no criminal history. They come here from other cities, states and even other countries. They may not know if they are fishing in the Gulf or the Atlantic, the various size regulations, catch limits or even how to measure a fish.

Attorney Drew Sando specializes in defending clients against FWC violations. CONTRIBUTED

Sando emphasized that “ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it. But there has to be a bit of balance there.

“I want to build my reputation in this community and help people navigate the law as someone who understands these cases, the laws and the violations. I believe I offer a unique and specialized experience in handling FWC cases that can be of real value to Keys residents and visitors.

As a former recipient of the FWC’s Prosecutor of the Year award, “I’m confident in my knowledge of this type of case,” he said. “And as a defense attorney in this unique practice area, I know what facts to look for based on what certain rules and/or laws require.”

Sando emphasized his respect for FWC officers and the agency as a whole. “These officers are doing a great job, and they believe in what they’re doing, and what they’re doing is important. But some of the offenses can be more than just a speeding ticket where you pay a fine and drive away. Criminal offenses can have serious and real implications, and people often don’t know it. Some violations can even lead to jail time.

Advice from lawyer Drew Sando before you hit the water:

DO: Be respectful and polite to FWC officers, even if you disagree with them. You are filmed.

DON’T: Rely on ignorance as a defense.

DO: Download the Fish app from the FWC website and view the rules. Know where you fish, what the season is and what size certain species need to be.

DO: Knowing how to properly measure a fish, including a pinch tail for certain fish and proper lobster measuring devices, especially as the mini-season approaches.DO: Hire a defense attorney for these types of cases.