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  1. #1

    Default Trespass Enforcement Options for a Michigan Landowner

    My question involves criminal law for the state of: Michigan

    I have property with an attractive nuisance, water where people like to fish. Fishing in that water is legal by wading. Stepping on the dry ground is trespassing. The property is fenced and posted. The gentle approach of asking people to leave, which is effective, has become less practical because the trespassers, en mass, are complaining of 'harassment' if we interact with them. Local law enforcement is sympathetic to the trespassers.

    Calling police to the scene is not effective because 99% of the time they simply never appear. (I agree they have more important things to do.) So I intend to document trespassers and their vehicles with video and photos then match the photos with drivers license photos based on vehicle ownership. This would need law enforcement cooperation.

    My reading of the Michigan trespass law is I'm not required to ask people to leave before making a trespass complaint if the property is conspicuously fenced or posted. It also appears to provide for reasonable attorney fees from the trespasser to the land owner which might means an attorney can go forward with the evidence at no cost to me. This would also create an efficient work flow. Is there any way local law enforcement could thwart this approach?

    Thanks in advance for any assistance.

    Michigan recreational trespass law http://www.animallaw.info/statutes/s...3101-73301.htm

  2. #2

    Default Re: Trespass Enforcement Options for a Michigan Landowner

    Stepping on the dry ground is trespassing.
    No. Not exactly.

    I suspect this is ONE place where the non-enforcement issue is hung:

    "(3) On fenced or posted property or farm property, a fisherman wading or floating a navigable public stream may, without written or oral consent, enter upon property within the clearly defined banks of the stream or, without damaging farm products, walk a route as closely proximate to the clearly defined bank as possible when necessary to avoid a natural or artificial hazard or obstruction, including, but not limited to, a dam, deep hole, or a fence or other exercise of ownership by the riparian owner."

    If your local prosecutor's office habitually refuses to bring charges in cases similar to yours, you can anticipate that law enforcement isn't going to go through the motions only to have the issue dropped - because, as you note, they often DO have more important things to be doing, especially if they know nothing will come of it. Unless the fishermen are doing something OTHER than just having their feet on the bank, such as littering, damaging property, disturbing the peace, roaming areas of the property not immediately adjacent to the bank, or some similar issue, I wouldn't be counting on either local law enforcement, or your state's game and fish law enforcement (who ALSO has jurisdiction), to be doing much. Without researching MI's statutes more closely, I CAN tell you that many states have statutory language that makes it a crime to interfere with persons who are otherwise legally fishing, so another aspect here may not be that law enforcement is sympathetic, but that the fishermen enjoy some level of statutory protection, especially given the very clear exception to fishing and wading as the trespass issue is spelled out. Police in most cases would rather deal with, solve, and STOP problems whenever possible. They don't enjoy repeated calls on an issue any more than you enjoy making them.

    So a few things you can try are:

    1) Call your local prosecutor's office and find out if they EVER prosecute these things. If they say they don't, that'll tell you a LOT, and, give you (and similar property owners) something to be very vocal about when the next election cycle rolls around.

    2) Instead of local law enforcement, who may not be well versed in the many layers of the law where fishing-specific trespass is concerned, try contacting your state-level fish/game law enforcement. They will be MUCH more familiar with not only state statutes on fishing-related trespass, but also administrative codes which may contain potential courses of action on the situation.

    3) Check with a local tort attorney. Many will give free consultations, or your local law school may have a free clinic where you can get aid from students working under a qualified and licensed attorney. MI law appears to allow you to sue for damages, and your legal fees, against those who violate trespass laws. (I don't have it in front of me, but if my recollection is correct, it's $250 per person per incident. Could add up nicely and would certainly send a strong message.) If you were able to get license plates, registration information is public record, and for a couple of bucks you should be able to nail down the individuals in question to have them served with summons for any such suits you'd care to bring.
    Catherine NeSmith
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    AARDVARC.org, Inc.
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  3. #3

    Default Re: Trespass Enforcement Options for a Michigan Landowner

    My original question is whether photo and video evidence is sufficient for enforcement without an officer coming to the property for every complaint real time, then, whether I'll be allowed access to drivers license photos to see if my photos of the trespasser and his vehicle match the drivers license photo of the vehicle owner. If those things can happen then it should be possible to make enforcible complaints efficiently, as many or few as needed.

    In Michigan a person who wants to fish in a navigable stream must float or keep his feet on the submerged bottom lands, feet in the water, at all times except to get around an obstruction or deep hole. There are no obstructions or deep holes.

    Section 324.73108 of the law says local prosecutors SHALL enforce the law so I'm confident that complaints with sufficient evidence will be enforced.

    This harsh approach is regretable because verbal warnings work well enough. If I make dozens of trespass complaints that will hurt a lot of people in ways I can't anticipate and don't want but I'll do what's necessary to preserve the peaceful enjoyment of my property. I hear American has a bigger prison population per capita than any other nation by far. If our system is so great, so state of the art, why do we need to put so many people in jail?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Trespass Enforcement Options for a Michigan Landowner

    If you're wondering if your video will be sufficient to convince the police to request charges against somebody, take it to the police and see if they'll review it. Only they can answer that question.

    The statute quoted above is Michigan law, MCL 324.73102. I doubt that the police or prosecutor are going to quibble over the allegation that somebody stepped out of the water somewhere along the shore of the river, without causing any damage, against the defense that there was some form of obstacle or obstruction, perhaps temporary in nature, that caused the person to briefly step out of the water.

    The statute you mention doesn't require prosecution of every landowner's complaint - it defines which prosecuting authority is responsible for prosecuting a defendant who has been charged with a violation of the associated statutes.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Trespass Enforcement Options for a Michigan Landowner

    Here's information on getting a vehicle record. You cannot realistically expect that the police will let you access their system.

  6. #6
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Trespass Enforcement Options for a Michigan Landowner

    My original question is whether photo and video evidence is sufficient for enforcement without an officer coming to the property for every complaint real time, then, whether I'll be allowed access to drivers license photos to see if my photos of the trespasser and his vehicle match the drivers license photo of the vehicle owner. If those things can happen then it should be possible to make enforcible complaints efficiently, as many or few as needed.
    Yes, your complaint and a photo of the violation would be adequate to charge the people.



    There is a required form with permissible reasons for seeking DMV records. I do not believe the photo records are available. You can obtain the personal description records though IF you have an acceptable reason.

    http://www.michigan.gov/documents/bdvr154_16269_7.pdf
    I am not an attorney and any advice is not to be construed as legal advice. You might even want to ignore my advice. Actually, there are plenty of real attorneys that you might want to ignore as well.

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