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Unwanted houseguests could be charged with trespassing under proposal

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SALT LAKE CITY — Houseguests who overstay their welcome and refuse to leave could be charged with trespassing under a bill being considered by the Utah Legislature.

HB202, sponsored by Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, received a favorable recommendation Thursday from the Senate Judiciary Committee with a 2-1 vote.

Greene's bill would apply the class B misdemeanor offense of criminal trespass to long-term guests who refuse earlier requests from the homeowner to leave.

"This is a gray area," he said, "and I think more instruction to our law enforcement on how to handle these situations is better than to say, 'This doesn't quite cover it perfectly, so let's not do it.'"

Greene said HB202 would provide clear guidance for police officers to remove people from a residence in such situations.

Bountiful Police Chief Tom Ross spoke against the bill, saying cases like the bill describes "are so difficult … because there is so much gray area here that they can go right to a potential criminal penalty."

Ross said it would be helpful for his officers to have the teeth to enforce evictions, but he said justification for evicting a person would become increasingly difficult the longer a person stayed in a residence.

"Now there is an expectation by a property owner for us to arrest or remove someone by force, and that may complicate it much more," he said.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, expressed similar hesitation with the bill, describing a scenario where someone faces eviction after having been a guest for years.

"Now I am facing criminal charges. Now maybe my tools are in the garage, and I need those to work," Weiler said. "This is an eviction. … I am really shocked that this would be so easy."

Will Carlson, representing the Statewide Association of Prosecutors, spoke in support of the bill.

"If somebody comes to a house party and is unwelcome and is told to leave, doesn't leave, the existing trespass statute addresses that," he said. "If someone is a tenant, a landlord has a civil remedy. This bill does a good job of identifying that gray area."

Carlson said the bill would allow law enforcement to look at the dispute and have the power to deal with it when a homeowner calls to remove someone from their home.

The bill previously passed in the House and now moves to the Senate floor for further debate. Email:

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