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Eye On Boise

Amended version of anti-trespassing bill wins final House passage, 51-18

The Senate-amended version of the anti-trespassing bill, HB658aaS, has passed the House on a 51-18 vote. “We had some friendly amendments from the Senate,” Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, the bill’s lead sponsor, told the House. “I ask that you accept these amendments and the bill and give everyone some clarification of what trespass means. If you’re not a trespasser, you do not have to worry about what is in this bill.”

Rep. Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, said he still opposes the bill, though he said “there were some improvements.” Erpelding said the bill still would guarantee recovery of damages for the landowner if the landowner prevails in court, but only allow the accused to recover if they prevail if the court rules that it was a “frivolous and baseless action.” “The fact is, that is not a fair way to do legislation, especially if you’re talking about in a civil court of law, where somebody drags somebody in and accuses someone of something and then proceeds to lose,” he said.

Erpelding also said the bill would make it trespassing to run over a neighbor’s sprinkler head. And he also raised concern that the bill says a trespasser who apologizes and leaves still is guilty of an infraction. As cited in an Idaho Attorney General’s opinion on the bill, he said the interaction between Idaho’s new “stand your ground” law and the anti-trespassing bill could lead to landowners legally shooting suspected trespassers. “Passing this will create an environment that I believe is going to result in some innocent people getting shot, and at a minimum, ending up with an infraction for a mistake,” he said.

Boyle responded, “If you would be out spinning cookies on your neighbor’s landscaping, you would currently be in trouble with the law.”

“We tried to make this a reasonable standard – people have to know they are trespassing,” she said. “That is on the prosecutor, if he takes that, that this person should have known, there were signs. This does not criminalize innocent behavior. This does not eliminate posting requirements, in fact we actually have beefed them up where private land and public land intersect. This does not criminalize people like the Girl Scouts or missionaries going door to door, and it does not provide a mechanism for landowners to bring unsubstantiated lawsuits.”

All those were issues raised about the earlier version of the bill, before the Senate amendments. The bill now heads to Gov. Butch Otter.

In the final vote, all 11 House Democrats opposed the bill; they were joined by seven House Republicans, Reps. Armstrong, Giddings, Harris, Luker, Manwaring, Perry and Wagoner.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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