During the 2018 session, a trespass law for private property was passed. Passage of this bill triggered a lot of discussion – and some of it was negative. I have listened to the views of many and here address the major concerns.
The most addressed concern was about the felony part of the bill. It is important to understand that under the new statute, first-time convictions have a minimum $300 fine, $1,500 for a second conviction and $5,000 for a third conviction. After a third conviction could face a felony charge if there is more than $1,000 worth of damage involved with the trespass.
This felony provision is consistent with the current law as it applies to malicious damage to property.
There are already strong penalties for someone who knowingly and willfully trespasses on someone else’s property three times and causes more than $1,000. Someone will be convicted under this law if they knowingly and willfully trespass on someone else’s land.
The second issue was about the change in marking of property. The new statute requires posting unfenced, uncultivated land at property corners and where the property line intersects navigable streams, roads, gates, and rights-of-way. The property must also be posted so that a reasonable person would know they are entering private land. This posting requirement is a higher standard than under current law. Unless one is going to cut a fence to enter another property, going through a gate on a road, one will know when they are on private property.
The clarity that this legislation brings to the trespass issue will improve relations between property owners and hunters, fishers and other outdoorsmen by simplifying and consolidating dispersed trespassing codes, they are more easily found and understood by both parties.
Listening to the testimony of our citizens who had had more damage done to their possessions than many homes are worth, equipment that provides their living, feeds our nation, and is paid for with the sweat of their labor, I believe every citizen deserves to have their property rights protected, no matter the value.
The number of those who do damage is small compared to those who enjoy the vast acreage of public and private land to hunt and to recreate. This new law will give law enforcement and our judiciary the ability to provide a deterrent to those who willfully destroy property, greatly improving the relationships between landowners and outdoorsmen of all types.