New California Law on Agricultural Trespassing Goes Into Effect

On January 1, California’s new tougher standards for those convicted of trespassing on farms and ranches went into effect. Gov. Grey Davis signed SB 993 in October after it passed the California Assembly 63-5 and the state Senate 37-0.

As the legislative summary of the bill put it,

This bill would make it a trespass to enter upon lands or
buildings owned by any other person without the license of the owner
or legal occupant, where signs forbidding trespass are displayed, and
whereon cattle, goats, pigs, sheep, fowl, or any other animal is
being raised, bred, fed, or held for the purpose of food for human
consumption; or to injure, gather, or carry away any animal being
housed on any of those lands, without the license of the owner or
legal occupant; or to damage, destroy, or remove, or cause to be
removed, damaged or destroyed, any stakes, marks, fences, or signs
intended to designate the boundaries and limits of any of those
lands. By increasing the scope of an existing crime, this bill would
impose a state-mandated local program.

The upshot is that while a first offense will draw only a $100 fine, second and subsequent offenses can be punished by up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail. Without the law, the stiffest penalty for basic trespassing was a $10 fine.

Sen. Chuck Poochigan introduced the bill and argued it was necessary to give law enforcement an unambiguous tool to deal with potential agricultural terrorism. Poochigan said of the act when it was up for consideration by the senate,

Acts of animal or
biological terrorism should be recognized as a significant
threat to California’s agriculture and consumers. Law
enforcement should be equipped to protect the resources and
citizens of the state from such acts. Existing law states that
it is a misdemeanor to enter land where oysters or other
shellfish are planted or growing or to injure, gather or carry
them away without the license of the owner or legal occupant.

This bill expands existing law by making it illegal to trespass
on lands where any animal is being housed, raised, bred, fed or
held for the purposes of food for human consumption. This bill
also corresponds with current law to make it illegal to injure
or carry away animals being held on these lands.

Animal rights activists and groups, not surprisingly, decried the passage of the bill. The Humane Society of the United States’ Wayne Pacelle told the Modesto Bee,

There’s growing concern about terrorism, and people can hit that hot button to justify severe laws to punish those who may be viewed as a threat to certain industries. THe industry is attempting to overreach, to inoculate itself from public scrutiny.

The full text of the new law can be read here.


State toughens farm trespass laws. Eric Stern, Modesto Bee, January 2, 2004.

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