Trespass reform bill sparks debate as Attorney General opinion found constitutional concerns

Posted at 10:31 PM, Feb 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-23 00:31:28-05

Damaged property and dead livestock are some of the reasons the Idaho Farm Bureau says it is behind House Bill 536. A bill that would take trespassing a lot more seriously. 

"There are varying definitions of even what trespass is across different code sections," explained Russ Hendricks of the Idaho Farm Bureau. "They want people who are going to ask permission and are going to be respectful of their property when they're there." 

The proposed legislation would add a three-strike clause. People convicted of trespassing three times within a ten-year period would be charged with a felony. The Idaho Wildlife Federation, on the other hand, believes the bill does not address the issue of damaged property and goes too far with its punishment. 

"We certainly don't want that to happen, but that's not trespassing. That's vandalism. That's theft. There are already laws that address that," said Brian Brooks of the Idaho Wildlife Federation. "Punishing folks that might just otherwise end up on to your land accidentally, in the same manner, might not be appropriate." 

The bill also allows property owners more flexibility on where they can post their trespassing signs -- a move sportsmen groups and some lawmakers say just is not fair. They are worried it could put people on the wrong side of the fence.

"Ignorance is not a defense, so, the way that is written, even if you didn't know you were on private property, it's assumed you are there to do something bad. In this law there is no recognition of accidental trespass," said House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding of Boise.  

Representative Erpelding requested a review of the bill by the Attorneys General Office who not only found it to be too broad but also raised constitutional concerns. The bill still needs a third reading before house leaders can call for a vote. That reading has been postponed three times now, as lawmakers take up other issues. The Idaho Farm Bureau says they are cautiously optimistic the bill the will pass.