Passed last year, the Illinois legislation's new, and stricter, trespass penalties are now in full effect with the new year.

Public Act 94-512, affects a agricultural producer's ability to collect damages in a civil action where a trespasser under 16 years of age uses a motor vehicle (such as an ATV) to trespass on certain “land.” In such situations, the trespasser's parent or legal guardian and the vehicle owner will be jointly liable to the landowner for the actual damages caused by the trespassing youth.

In summarizing the new “Triple Threat”:

  • The Jan. 1, 2006, amendment (PA-94-512) threatens the trespasser’s parent or guardian and the vehicle owner with civil liability for damages caused by a trespasser under 16 who uses a motor vehicle (e.g., an ATV) to trespass on certain farm or timber land.
  • An amendment, effective in August 2005, threatens a Class A misdemeanor on trespassers on certain agricultural lands using a motor vehicle no matter what their ages. It doubles the potential jail time from six months to one year and boosts the maximum fine to $2,500.
  • A third amendment, also effective in August 2005, threatens trespassers of all ages who intentionally damage certain farm property. The new threat is stiffer criminal penalties, (up to 15 years where the damage exceeds $100,000).

The new “triple threat” is intended to discourage would-be trespassers from entering another’s agricultural lands without permission.

The issue arises when individuals ignore “No Trespassing” signs that have been throughout the property or when a person remains on private property after being the landowner (or renter) asked the person to leave. Also, if damage has been done to property the trespasser now has committed a second crime – “criminal damage to property.”

“Land” is defined broadly and includes cropland, orchards, pastures, feedlots, timber areas and natural prairie. Motor vehicle is also defined rather broadly and includes all-terrain vehicles (but does not include snowmobiles).

Many Illinois farmers believe that trespassing has been a growing problem, especially incidents involving ATVs or other vehicles. Also, it's seen as adding to protection against activists and others who might have an agenda against agriculuture.