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Winter weather arrives

A trespassing sign has seen better days Nov. 28, 2016, near Kimberly.

With each problem that’s solved in Idaho’s trespassing bill, another problem pops up from the bushes.

HB 658, which intends to change the state’s trespassing laws, was sent to the Senate’s 14th Order Wednesday for possible amendments.

This is the second — and marginally better — version of the trespassing bill. Still, the bill is supposed to be aimed at habitual trespassers, but in practice will catch innocent outdoorsmen in its web. Idaho’s recreationists deserve better.

Under the first version of the bill, three trespassing violations would have resulted in a felony. That’s gone in the new bill, and exemptions for groups like Girl Scouts and missionaries are included. What still remains are increased fines for trespassing and more lax requirements for how many “no trespassing signs” landowners are required to display.

The first bill was widely denounced by Idaho’s attorney general’s office. Grant Loebs, Twin Falls prosecuting attorney, said it was “overly broad, and legitimate people will be determined guilty.” The Idaho Prosecuting Attorney's Association is not opposing the new bill, but is not testifying in support of the bill either. 

The new bill includes a a small language change: if you have “reason to know” that a property is private and you’re still there without permission, you could be guilty of trespass. That language takes into consideration the intent of the trespasser.

But why, then, does it drastically scale back the number of “no trespassing” signs that landowners must display? If the purpose is to hit harder the habitual trespassers who pay no attention to the signs anyway, the state should not make it harder for innocent trespassers to know when they are trespassing.

As Sen. Maryanne Jordan, D-Boise, said Tuesday, “Clearly this bill is almost like peeling an onion. Every time we identify an issue, we find an unintended consequence that may apply.”

This onion is rotten, and will not have its intended effect. We urge lawmakers to throw it out instead of peeling back another layer, only to discover it still makes criminals of innocent Idahoans.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this editorial stated that the Idaho Prosecuting Attorney's Association was supporting the new version of the trespassing bill. It has been updated to show that they are not supporting the bill, but they have agreed to not oppose it either. 


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