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Anti-trespass bill increases penalties, overhauls civil laws

To become law, HB 658 just needs to be signed by the governor

Idaho Capitol Building

Credit: Contributed photo
Idaho Capitol Building



— In a matter of three days, a controversial anti-trespassing bill was amended and, with amendments, passed by the Idaho Senate and the House.

To become law, HB 658 just needs to be signed by the governor.

The bill, which has received hours of testimony and debate in public hearings, increases penalties for trespass and ultimately overhauls current civil trespassing laws. The bill has received a lot of support, primarily from agricultural landowners, and much opposition from sportsmen.

On the Senate floor, three senators – two democrats and a republican – brought forward competing amendments March 20. The Senate approved amendments made by Sen. Mark Harris, R-Soda Springs. Harris said he sought to address concerns raised by sportsmen and lawyers in committee hearings.

Here are the changes he made:

  • 1. Defendants in trespassing cases can be awarded attorney fees when the case is brought “without foundation.” Harris said this avoids a “one-way attorney fee.”
  • 2. Oral permission would be a legitimate form of permission. The unamended HB 658 defined permission as written only.
  • 3. Investigative costs must be “reasonable.” This amendment addressed concerns that landowners could charge for investigations without limit, and defendants would have to pay.
  • 4. Trespassing for the first time without damage is an infraction, rather than a misdemeanor.
  • 5. A lessee whose crops have been damaged may receive compensation for the damage.
  • 6. Fish and Game funds are to be used only in cases of recreational trespass, rather than in all cases of trespass.
  • 7. Defining “remain.” Some testifying in public hearings said the word needed to be clarified.

Boise democrat Sen. Maryanne Jordan, who brought an amendment that would have kept the bill from being enacted, said it was too late to fix HB 658.

“To bring amendments this complicated, this late, with no opportunity for participation and conversation, I think is going to result in a law that is not nearly as good as we probably could make it with a little more time and care,” Jordan said.

The bill passed the Senate as amended March 21. That same day, the House concurred with the changes. On March 22, the House passed the new version of the bill.

With amendments, the bill gained some votes. Rep. Kelley Packer, R-McCammon, who voted “no” on the original version of House Bill 658, said the changes made by the Senate effectively addressed problems she had had with the bill.

“I really like the amendments,” Packer said. “They, I think, have helped a lot.”

Packer and three other republican lawmakers – Neil Anderson, Wendy Horman and Rick Youngblood – went from voting “no” on the original bill to supporting it with amendments.

On the other side, Rep. Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, said though the amendments improved the bill, it still needed work. He also said he had concerns about the bill’s overlay with Senate Bill 1313 — the bill that incorporated stand-your ground and castle doctrine language into Idaho code.

Boyle said the idea is a stretch.

“Tying this to this private property bill is pretty outrageous thing to do as far as I’m concerned,” she said. “No offense to the gentleman from (District) 19, but I know that has also been in the paper quite a bit.”

A deputy attorney general’s opinion earlier this year stated the two bills could lead to more shooting of trespassers. Gov. Butch Otter also allowed SB 1313 to pass yesterday without his signature. He wrote in a letter that the bill “will exonerate killings that otherwise would be considered unreasonable.”

After the 51-18 vote in the House, the bill was transmitted to the governor for signing, the final step before it becomes law.

The full amended version of the bill can be found here: https://bit.ly/2IW9qbk.



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