According to this meme if you bury a body underneath an endangered plant, it is then illegal for law enforcement to dig up the body. Is this true?

  • For what it's worth, the meme doesn't actually assert that law enforcement would be doing the digging. Burying evidence under something that you know won't be moved or disturbed (Such as the under the foundation of a building, or, yes, under endangered plants) would greatly reduce the risk of accidental discovery as long as nobody (esp. law enforcement) doesn't have a reason to be looking for it.
    – Davy M
    Commented Feb 5, 2021 at 17:20

3 Answers 3


The Meme is Incorrect

Law enforcement in the may disturb or dig up plants that are listed as endangered species while unearthing evidence of a serious crime.

16 U.S. Code § 1538 subsection (a) ,(2) provides that:

(2) Except as provided in sections 1535(g)(2) and 1539 of this title, with respect to any endangered species of plants listed pursuant to section 1533 of this title, it is unlawful for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to—


(B) remove and reduce to possession any such species from areas under Federal jurisdiction; maliciously damage or destroy any such species on any such area; or remove, cut, dig up, or damage or destroy any such species on any other area in knowing violation of any law or regulation of any State or in the course of any violation of a State criminal trespass law;

Digging up a member (or members) of an endangered plant species during a legitimate criminal investigation as part of a focused search for evidence would not be to "maliciously damage or destroy" them, nor would it be in "knowing violation of any law or regulation of any State".

This notion (that evidence is safe if buried under endangered plants) misunderstands what is prohibited by the law.

  • 5
    Police will now hire botanists who can point them to protected plants - that's where the bodies lie :-)
    – gnasher729
    Commented Feb 4, 2021 at 22:27
  • 3
    And anyway how do you bury something underneath a plant? Dig up the plant, bury the thing and put the plant back in the hole? What about the roots? Couldn't the police just pick up the now-disconnected-from-the-surrounding-area plant? Commented Feb 5, 2021 at 5:18
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    @user253751 And now you're also charged with messing with endangered plant as a bonus Commented Feb 5, 2021 at 5:32
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    @nick012000 There is no definition of "malicious" in ther act, so it should have its ordinary meaning. That would be more than "knowingly" and would imply "bad intent". I have not found caselaw on the point, but it is absurd that a criminal could secure total protection of evidence inn this way, and absent a very explicit direction in the law, I very much doubt that a court would so rule. Commented Feb 5, 2021 at 15:13
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    @Tyler I don't know of one,. and I very much doubt that there is one. Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 20:34

In all wild plants are legally protected to varing degrees by section 13 the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Those plants listed in Schedule 8 are protected by s.13(1)(a) and all others by s.13(1)(b)

s.13(1) [ ... ] if any person—

(a) intentionally picks, uproots or destroys any wild plant included in Schedule 8; or

(b) not being an authorised person, intentionally uproots any wild plant not included in that Schedule,

he shall be guilty of an offence.

However, s.13(3) provides a statutory defence that disproves the claim made in the OP's meme:

s.13(3) Notwithstanding anything in subsection (1), a person shall not be guilty of an offence by reason of any act made unlawful by that subsection if he shows that the act was an incidental result of a lawful operation and could not reasonably have been avoided.

The recovery of a body by the police (or other authorised person) following a suspicious death is a "lawful operation" which may include progressing a criminal investigation, making the deceased available for post mortem or to inform the mandatory coroner's inquest


It is prohibited to remove and reduce to possession or maliciously damage or destroy endangered plants on Federal lands. For private lands, it is illegal to collect, damage, or destroy endangered plants in violation of a state law including state criminal trespass law. According to the U.S. Forest Service

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    Since the intent is neither possession nor malice, why do you think this rule applies?
    – MSalters
    Commented Feb 4, 2021 at 22:48
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    This doesn't answer the question. Is it illegal to dig up the body?
    – user4657
    Commented Feb 5, 2021 at 0:46

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