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Law Enforcement, Sportsmen Urge Governor to Veto Trespassing Bill

Law enforcement groups say a new trespassing bill, currently on Gov. Butch Otter's desk, will be hard to enforce. (Aperature Armadillo/Flickr)
Law enforcement groups say a new trespassing bill, currently on Gov. Butch Otter's desk, will be hard to enforce. (Aperature Armadillo/Flickr)
March 26, 2018

BOISE, Idaho – Law-enforcement and sporting groups are urging Gov. Butch Otter to veto a bill toughening trespassing penalties that passed the state Legislature last week.

House Bill 658 would increase penalties for the crime and make multiple violations a felony. It also requires landowners to post "conspicuous" markers for their property borders.

Twin Falls Police Chief Craig Kingsbury says it will force officers across the state into precarious situations.

"Any type of neighborhood dispute in which a neighbor walks onto the lawn of another neighbor - and I will say that police officers in Idaho get called to those kinds of disputes quite often - will now kind of mandate that an arrest be made or at least a criminal charge be brought against the neighbor for the crime of trespass," he warns.

Kingsbury says it will strain police departments' resources. He's president of the Idaho Chiefs of Police Association. That group and other law enforcement groups, as well as sporting and hunting groups, met with the governor's office on Friday to persuade Otter to veto the measure. Agriculture groups are the largest supporters of the bill.

Brian Brooks, executive director of the Idaho Wildlife Federation, says he isn't opposed to updating the state's trespassing laws. But he doesn't feel like sports or law-enforcement groups were allowed any say on this and just want to be part of the process.

Brooks says it over-criminalizes trespassing and that even the court proceedings are inequitable because alleged trespassers have to prove there is no foundation to a landowner's claim in order to recoup legal fees. He says that's a steep barrier.

"As long as the legal-fee recovery provision is not equal - that landowners shall recover legal fees and recreationists may recover legal fees - that is going to set the stage for harassment via lawsuits," he explains.

Kingsbury opposes this bill as an outdoorsman as well, saying he shouldn't be considered a criminal if he accidentally steps onto private property. He describes the current procedure for officers if a person refuses to leave someone else's property.

"The police officer would warn that person that they must leave immediately," he explains. "And then if they don't leave, we would arrest them for trespass. That has worked very well for the 28 years that I've been a peace officer in this state."

The governor has until Thursday to sign or veto the bill.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID