Major changes in Idaho’s trespass law took place on July 1, 2018. Most of the changes are very beneficial to private landowners; however, there is confusion within the law enforcement community on how they will deal with certain aspects of the new law. In general, “No Trespassing” posting requirements for landowners have been lowered and the penalties for violators have been increased – both great news for landowners. Following is a brief summary of the most significant changes.
- Posting Requirements
Previously, Idaho landowners were required to post their boundary every 660 feet and at obvious entry points, such as roads and streams. Valid posting included a “No Trespassing” sign or bright orange paint. The new law removes the requirement to post every 660 feet along property boundaries.
The new law states that landowners who want to keep trespassers out and reserve the right for possible prosecution or civil action must conspicuously post their uncultivated property boundaries with signs or orange paint at property corners, navigable streams, roads and gates in a manner that a “reasonable person would be put on notice that it is private land.” The law does not require posting for cultivated land or land that is reasonably associated with a residence.
Under the old law, trespass violators were subject to as little as a $50 fine. As indicated in the highlighted box, trespass penalties have been greatly increased. The new law includes exemptions for emergency responders and people who knock on doors such as missionaries, meter readers, salespeople, etc.
The new trespass law created a set of criminal trespass penalties that increases in severity for repeat offenders:
- First offense: $300 fine if they leave when asked. If not, the charge could carry 6 months jail time and up to $1,000 in fines.
- Second offense within five years: misdemeanor, up to six months jail time and between $1,500 and $3,000 in fines.
- Third offense within 10 years: possible felony, up to 10 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.
- Trespassing that results in property damage carries increased punishments.
- Additionally, criminal trespass associated with hunting, fishing or trapping brings a one-year suspension of Idaho Fish and Game licenses.
Although the new law represents a major improvement in the eyes of landowners, sportsmen and law enforcement officers have concerns. For example, portions of the language in the new law are ambiguous, such as the requirement that a person commits a trespass when he/she “enters and remains” on property. There is a question regarding the definition of “remains.” Also, the interpretation of a “reasonable person would be put on notice” may open an escape hatch for a trespasser, even though the new law provides some guidance.
There is a chance the legislature may tweak the law in its next session. Hopefully, the right of landowners to protect their property will remain the guiding principle.