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H.501

Introduced by   Representative Smith of New Haven

Referred to Committee on

Date:

Subject:  Crimes and criminal procedure; trespasses and malicious injuries to property; crop damage

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to establish the crime of damage to crops or crop operation and hold a person who commits such crime both criminally and civilly liable.

AN ACT RELATING TO CROP OR CROP OPERATION DAMAGE

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  13 V.S.A. § 3706 is added to read:

§ 3706.  CROPS OR CROP OPERATION PROPERTY DAMAGE; CIVIL

               ACTION; CRIMINAL PENALTIES

(a)  A person shall not, without the consent of the owner, do any of the following:

(1)  Willfully destroy or damage a crop maintained on crop operation property or crop operation property.

(2)  Exercise control over a crop maintained on crop operation property or crop operation property with an intent to deprive the owner of the crop or crop operation property.

(3)  Enter onto or remain on crop operation property if the person has notice that the property is not open to the public, and the person has an intent to do one of the following:

(A)  Disrupt agricultural production conducted on the crop operation property if the agricultural production directly relates to the maintenance of crops.  A person is presumed to intend disruption if the person moves, removes, or defaces any sign posted on the crop operation property or label used by the owner, and the sign or label identifies a crop maintained on the crop operation property.

(B)  Destroy or damage a crop or any portion of a crop maintained on the crop operation property.

(b)  A person has notice that a crop operation property is not open to the public if the person is provided notice prohibiting entry before the person enters onto the crop operation property, or the person refuses to immediately depart from the crop operation property after being notified to leave.  The notice may be in the form of a written or verbal communication by the owner, a fence or other enclosure designed to exclude intruders, or a sign posted which is reasonably likely to come to the attention of an intruder and which indicates that entry is prohibited.

(c)  A person who suffers damages as a result of a violation of this section may recover the following together with reasonable attorney’s fees in a civil action under this section:

(1)  For damages that are not to a research crop, an amount equaling three times all actual and consequential losses.

(2)  For damages to a research crop, both of the following:

(A)  Twice the amount of damages directly incurred by market losses, based on the lost market value of the research crop due to the damage, assuming that the research crop would have matured undamaged and been sold in normal commercial channels.  If the research crop has no market value, the damages shall be twice the amount of actual damages incurred in producing, harvesting, and storing the damaged research crop; and

(B)  Twice the amount of damages directly incurred by developmental losses, based on the losses associated with the research crop’s expected scientific value.  The research crop’s scientific value shall be determined by calculating the amount expended in developing the research crop, including costs associated with researching, testing, breeding, or engineering.  However, such damages shall not be awarded to the extent that the losses are mitigated by undamaged research crops that have been identically developed.

(d)  For the purposes of this section:

(1)  “Crop operation” means a commercial enterprise where a crop is maintained on the property of the commercial enterprise.

(2)  “Crop operation property” means:

(A)  Real property that is a crop field, orchard, nursery, greenhouse, garden, elevator, seedhouse, barn, warehouse, any other associated land or structures located on the land, and personal property located on the land including machinery or equipment, that is part of a crop operation; or

(B)  A vehicle used to transport a crop that was maintained on the crop operation property.

(3)  For crops maintained on crop operation property or for crop operation property, “deprive” means to:

(A)  Occupy any part of a crop operation property for a period of time sufficient to prevent access to the crop or crop operation property.

(B)  Dispose of a crop maintained on the crop operation property or belonging to the crop operation in a manner that makes recovery of the crop or crop operation property by its owner unlikely.

(4)  “Maintain” means to keep and preserve any crop by planting, nurturing, harvesting, and storing the crop; or storing, planting, or nurturing the crop’s seed.

(5)  “Owner” means a person who has a legal interest in a crop or crop operation property or who is authorized by the holder of the legal interest to act on the holder’s behalf in maintaining the crop.

(6)  “Research crop” means a crop, including the crop’s seed, that is maintained for purposes of scientific research regarding the study or alteration of the genetic characteristics of a plant or associated seed, including its deoxyribonucleic acid, which is accomplished by breeding or by using biotechnological systems or techniques.

(e)  A person who violates this section and does any damage to any property which is valued in an amount:

(1)  exceeding $1,000.00 shall be imprisoned for not more than five years or fined not more than $5,000.00 or both;

(2)  exceeding $250.00 shall be imprisoned for not more than one year or fined not more than $1,000.00 or both;

(3)  not exceeding $250.00 shall be imprisoned for not more than six months or fined not more than $500.00 or both.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us