Fines for trespassing on private property in Idaho could get stiffer, and habitual offenders could find themselves charged with a felony under a bill introduced in the Legislature on Thursday.
“We need to change how we deal with trespass on private property,” House Agricultural Affairs Chairwoman Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, told her committee.
Boyle is the bill’s sponsor. She said Idaho’s trespass laws are a “patchwork.” Property posting requirements and penalties depend on if the trespass is criminal, civil or recreational.
“This is crazy, but recreational trespass has a much higher penalty than criminal trespass,” she said.
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Boyle, a rancher, said she has experienced a lot of problems on her property.
The new bill “makes a higher standard for people to know where they are,” she said. “We all have GPS on our phones. If you plan on going somewhere, you better know where you are.”
Existing trespassing penalties offer variations on misdemeanor charges. Criminal trespass, for example, provides for fines of $25 to $1,000 and a possible few months of jail time. If you harm someone’s animals, you can be made to pay for them.
The new penalties would range from $50 to $500. The higher fines are for people who “willfully and intentionally” trespass, Boyle said.
“It is for those people who come and cut your fence and drive out in your field. That is intentional,” she said.
The bill also is aimed toward repeat offenders, not people who get lost or accidentally trespass. Boyle wants a three-strikes clause — if someone is convicted of two trespass charges, the third offense is charged as a felony.
“This is somebody who has broken the law repeatedly, willingly and knowingly — those are the standards,” she said. “As a property owner I think that is exactly what they need to teach them a lesson.”
The bill also changes a requirement that property owners mark their property every 660 feet with orange paint, which Boyle described as “pretty unsightly” and “very onerous.” Under the new bill, markings would be required at property boundaries, access points and streams.
Boyle also referenced having property owners provide permission slips to anyone they do let access their land. “That is for both parties’ protection if it is written. ... That is something other states have done,” she said, noting Idaho Fish and Game and the state brand inspector already do this.
Boyle’s bill next will come before the committee for a full hearing.