A common misconception about pecans landed three people in jail last week, thanks to a little-known law that states pecans belong to the tree owner regardless of where they fall.
Even the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office was unfamiliar with this law until a Portal area pecan grower brought it to their attention, said Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson.
Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) 44-12-241 states “When pecan trees are grown on private property and the branches of the trees extend over public roads, streets, or highways; rights of way, any pecans falling from any such pecan tree onto the public rights of way shall be the property of the owner of the pecan trees until the end of the harvesting season. …"
The law makes it illegal for people to gather those pecans, unless they have permission from the owner of the trees. The violation is a misdemeanor, however any theft of more than a $300 value is considered a felony.
“We found that out last year,” Anderson said, “ A man in Portal had an attorney do some research and then he looked it up himself. He sent (a copy of the law) to me last year, and it clearly states that during harvest time, no matter where they fall, they belong to the owner of the tree.”
Most tree owners don’t bother when people pick pecans from the ditch or roadway, but with the high price of pecans this year, more growers are concerned, he said.
“Some people have a lot of pecans fall over a fence or (in the public rights of way), and they want those pecans,” he said.
Last week there were two separate incidents, but only one complainant pressed charges. “Some people just want (the trespassers) to leave. A lot of people just don’t know (about the law).”
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.