Idaho would shift many of its current misdemeanor crimes to infractions, under legislation introduced today by Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, including land use violations and building code violations. Luker told the House Judiciary Committee that Idaho only had misdemeanors and felonies until the “’80s or ‘90s,” when it began using infractions as well. “They impose a civil fine and there’s no jail time attached to it, and there’s also no right to jury trial attached to it, as there is with a misdemeanor and a felony,” he said. Plus, misdemeanors and felony charges bring the right to a public defender; Luker said Idaho’s many lower-level misdemeanor crimes are a factor in the overload of the state’s public defender system, and many are simply outdated.
He proposed three bills, all of which the committee agreed to introduce. The first would expand infraction violations to fines of up to $300, rather than the current $100, and make changes to how infraction penalties are set. The second would make land-use violations infractions rather than misdemeanors, with civil enforcement. The third would make building code violations infractions rather than misdemeanors; it would keep fines at up to $300, but would eliminate possible jail terms of up to 90 days. Today’s introduction clears the way for full hearings on the bills in the committee.