A bill aimed at strengthening the state’s statutes regarding trespassing on farms is headed to the Idaho House floor, but not without opposition. Last week the Idaho House Agricultural Affairs Committee voted 14-1 to send Rep. Judy Boyle’s, Trespass Bill, HB 536 to the floor for further consideration.
The bill includes a three-strike clause, which states within a ten year period, if someone is convicted of two trespassing charges, the third offense is a felony. This is already a law within the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
Idaho Farm Bureau President Bryan Searle, who testified before the Ag Committee, said that the current trespassing fine is so low, it’s not worth the Sheriff’s time in his county.
“We’ve experienced all kinds of damage,” said Searle. “At my farm in Shelley, we’ve had pivot tires shot up, fertilizer tanks shot full of bullet holes, we’ve had people drive through plowed fields. We even had a demolition derby with a couple of our tractors, not to mention garbage dumped in our fields.”
However the Idaho Attorney General says the bill as it is written conflicts with the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Deputy Attorney General Paul Panther wrote: “In reviewing the proposed language, it becomes clear that many innocent acts would be considered criminal. Three quick examples come to mind: a neighbor who sees a runaway pet and opens a fence or gate to approach the residence of the pet’s owner runs afoul … a child at a city park who picks up a handful of rocks, places them in his pocket and takes them home … a tired driver who pulls off a two-lane highway to take a nap alongside a cultivated field.
“While the proponents may not intend to criminalize a neighbor’s good deed, or a girl scout’s attempt to sell cookies, these acts violate the plain language of the proposed statute, which contains no limitations on many of the criminal trespass acts.”
Lobbyists for the Idaho Sheriff’s Association, Idaho Association of Counties, and Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys Association have also voiced serious concerns about the bill’s wording.
Boyle, an avid hunter and rancher, said the bill is geared to protect private property owners and that the state has plenty of public land (62%) for hunting and fishing without trespassing on private land.