"Whether planting crops in the spring or harvesting them in the
fall, our farmers have a short period of time to complete their
fieldwork," Blagojevich said. "Even a small delay to repair or
replace equipment that has been senselessly damaged by vandals can
cause significant production losses and jeopardize a farmer's
House Bill 120, sponsored by Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, and
Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, was introduced after vehicles on
three farms in Macon County and one farm in McLean were deliberately
set on fire in the fall of 2003, collectively causing about $400,000
damage and hampering farmers' ability to harvest their crops. The
law makes criminal damage to such equipment and "immovable items of
agricultural production" like barns and grain bins a felony offense.
It also stiffens the penalty for trespassing on farms from a Class B
to a Class A misdemeanor, effectively doubling the potential jail
time for the crime from six months to one year and increasing the
maximum fine from $1,500 to $2,500.
Also under House Bill 120, penalties for vandalizing farm
equipment escalate according to the dollar value of the damage. If
the damage totals $300 or less, the crime is a Class 4 felony,
punishable by one to three years in prison. However, damage
exceeding $100,000 is a Class 1 felony, which carries a possible
prison term of four to 15 years.
Two young men pleaded guilty to the vandalism in Macon County,
served six months in a prison boot camp and were paroled. The McLean
County case, which authorities believe is unrelated, has never been
"Before long, farmers will return to the fields for the fall
harvest," Mitchell said. "They should not have to worry that their
equipment, which is very expensive to buy and repair, will be
damaged or destroyed overnight by vandals. This new law will send a
message to would-be vandals that they will be held accountable for
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column in this article]
House Bill 4020 -- sponsored by Rep. Ed Sullivan Jr.,
R-Mundelein; Rep. Jim Watson, R-Jacksonville, and Sen. John
Sullivan, D-Rushville -- holds trespassers liable in civil court for
damage they cause to farm property with a motor vehicle, including
an ATV. If the person operating the vehicle is younger than 16, both
the owner of the vehicle and the parent or legal guardian of the
minor are liable under the new law.
"I am very pleased that local law enforcement now has more tools
to investigate and prosecute the criminals that cause damage to farm
machinery and equipment," Macon County State's Attorney Jack Ahola
said. "Due to the high costs of these items, it is essential to make
the penalties appropriate to the amount of damage."
"Agriculture is vital to Illinois' economy," Agriculture Director
Chuck Hartke said. "It's a multibillion industry that employs nearly
a quarter of our work force. This law makes it clear criminal
activity that disrupts agricultural production won't be tolerated."
Both measures passed unanimously and take effect immediately.
[News release from the governor's office]