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Ohioans need stronger trespassing laws

Ohioans are increasingly voicing their concerns about the growing problem of trespassing.

Trespassers could be uninvited hunters/trappers/fishermen or could be the increasing cadre of illegal ATV riders that appear oblivious to personal property rights. Trespassers could be a contingent of many uninvited individuals traveling onto private property knowingly and willingly for various reasons without the landowners’ permission.

Thanks to the Ohio Farm Bureau, in 2009, Ohio’s All-Purpose Vehicle Law, Section 4519.47 of the revised code, made it easier to prosecute trespassers. The law allows landowners to take action against trespassers who damage property.

The legislation provides those who trespass on an ATV to face increased penalties and a “3rd strike and you’re out” provision that allows for the confiscation of their vehicle. ATVs are also required to display a visible license plate or number that would help law enforcement officials identify trespassers.

Permission is always required to hunt or fish on private property. Failure to obtain permission from the property owner results in trespassing. Ohio law requires hunters to obtain written permission from the landowner and to carry the permission form with them while on the property.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has forms available that are the preferred form for permission.

Knowingly entering land or property of another violates Ohio’s trespassing law, Section 2911.21. Enclosures and postings used to restrict access, such as signs and fences, must be respected. Failing to leave after being notified by the owner or coming in contact with posted signs is considered trespassing.

Vacant property of any type or size is not an open invitation to trespassers for their unlimited use or any use — if you do not own it then stay off the property unless the landowner has given permission.

A common myth is that the property must be “posted” with “No Trespassing” or similar signs before a criminal trespass can occur. This is not so. A property owner is under no duty to “post” his/her property or to advise everyone that they are about to enter private property.

Rather, it is the duty of the hunter/fisherman/ATVer/APVer/other to know who owns the property upon which they are entering. A hunter or fisherman who enters property that he/she knows he does not have permission to enter is guilty of trespassing regardless of whether he knows who the actual owner of the property is.

Landowners have a full right to use their property for their own benefit and some landowners have paid considerable sums for that right. Landowners also pay property taxes, insurance and upkeep for use of their property and not for use by trespassers.

In my opinion, Ohio legislators should strengthen these laws and increase penalties against trespassers thereby protecting personal property rights of all Ohio landowners.

Jane Huff

Chesapeake