Bill description: SB 1317 would prohibit the act of falsely declaring public land to be private property by posting signs or taking other action.
Does it directly or indirectly create or increase penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for non-violent crimes? Conversely, does it eliminate or decrease penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for non-violent crimes?
SB 1317 would make it unlawful to falsely declare that public land is private land through the posting of signs or another form of communication.
Though the rationale of this bill is worthwhile — to discourage any false claims that would prevent the public’s use of public lands — the bill itself imposes an unnecessary misdemeanor and system of awarding damages.
Under SB 1317, a first violation would only result in a warning, the second violation would come with a fine of $100, and subsequent violations would result in a misdemeanor charge and a fine of up to $1,000. This latter penalty is excessive, since there is no distinction in the bill regarding “separate” violations. For instance, if an offender posts one sign declaring public land to be their private property and four people see that sign and call to report it, it is unclear if that would be one offense or four. Similarly, if an offender posts four signs in a one mile radius declaring land to be their private property, it is unclear if those four signs are four violations or just one.
Additionally, the bill states that “any person who is damaged by any act prohibited in this section may recover actual damages or five hundred dollars ($500), whichever is greater.” By declaring that some people may seek damages greater than the cost of their actual damages, the bill would hold offenders liable for more damage than they actually caused.
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