We had just finished doing the dishes and cleaning up from a Sunday noon meal at my parents’ house when a familiar truck pulled into the lane. Dad quickly put on his boots and went out the back door.
A friend from work had joined me on this visit with Mom and Dad, my siblings and their families, and my grandparents who lived just down the road.
“Mom doesn’t want them in the house,” I said, to explain to my co-worker the haste with which my dad had left the house.
A moment passed before Grandpa rose up out of the La-Z-Boy and said “I wouldn’t let the SOB’s on the farm.”
That was 20-some years ago. I am not going to tell you whose truck it was that pulled into the drive that day. That’s not the point of this column. My point is that there are some people that have no right to be on your farm. We need to educate ourselves, our families and employees if you have them, about our rights in handling unwelcome and unauthorized visitors.
With anti-agriculture and environmental activist groups canonizing those low-life criminals who would lie, cheat and steal to destroy the reputation of a farmer, it is incumbent on us to be prepared. With a struggling economy, rural criminal activity from burglary to meth-making is sure to be on the rise. Knowing what to do when you see or encounter someone on your farm that has no business being there could very well save your life and the life of your family.
Trespassing laws vary greatly from state to state. In Illinois, it is my understanding that trespassing is a criminal offense depending upon the circumstances of the crime and must be intentional in order to be considered so. In Indiana, it is my understanding that landowners can deny entry to anyone or tell anyone to leave his or her property for any reason. If the person denied entry stays on the property, he or she can be charged with criminal trespass.
I am not an attorney and am not offering legal advice. Do not use what I have written as a basis for any action. Instead, I would suggest that you contact your attorney or the District Attorney in your county to gain a better understanding of your rights in dealing with unauthorized visitors. I would suggest that in that discussion, you gain a clear understanding of which government agencies – if any – qualify as authorized visitors.
Not every act of trespassing is a criminal act. There are those who have implied rights to come on to your farm, such as a UPS driver delivering a package. People do get lost and wander onto our farms. A hunter might not have a clear understanding of the property line. A carload of teenagers might mistake a long lane in the country for a county road. (Ok, typically when that happens there was no mistake – they knew exactly what they were doing but didn’t expect to get caught.)
But we live in a world that has changed much in these past 20 years ago. If you don’t want the (what Grandpa said) on your farm, know your rights and have your county sheriff’s phone number handy.