Bill aims to lower some misdemeanor crimes to simple infractions

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) -- Currently in Idaho, people who accumulate too much unsightly junk in their yards or who do remodeling work without a permit can be charged with a misdemeanor crime.

But one local lawmaker thinks he's found a way to the reduce court costs and the legal workload.

Rep. Lynn Luker (R) Boise, a lawyer in private life, is sponsoring legislation that would shift current building code and land use violations from misdemeanor crimes to simple infractions.

"These are just two initial bills," Luker told KBOI News. "There would be others that we're going to study."

One of the main purposes of this proposed legislation is to lighten the load for the state's public defenders.

Misdemeanors by definition carry the potential for jail time, which requires that a public defender be provided.

"Right now our public defender system is overloaded," said Luker. "We have constitutional concerns that we are in trouble because they have too large of a caseload."

Infractions, on the other hand, are punishable only by fines and Luker wants to increase the infraction penalty from $100 to $300.

The House Judiciary Committee has agreed to hold a hearing on the proposals which Luker says will set a foundation for future legislative action to reduce other low-level misdemeanors to infractions.