A Missouri House committee has passed legislation designed to crack down on people illegally occupying homes and other residential properties.

The so-called “squatters” bill would elevate first-degree trespassing to a Class E felony in cases where someone intentionally enters a residential property and refuses to leave despite being forbidden to enter by the owner. It would also be a Class E felony if a trespasser refuses to leave after being asked to leave by a law enforcement officer. And a law officer could not be held liable in a civil lawsuit for enforcing the law “in good faith.”

A Class E felony in Missouri is punishable by up to four years in prison or one year in a county jail, although probation is also possible. A fine of up to $10,000 is possible as well.

The bill is sponsored by State Rep. Phil Amato, R-Arnold. It needs another committee hearing before moving to the full Missouri House. But time is not on the bill’s side, as there are only five weeks left in this year’s legislative session.

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