Augusta officials expect law to increase misdemeanor theft cases

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An array of changes to state theft laws that went into effect Sunday will result in many suspects being tried on misdemeanor charges for acts that would have been felonies last month.



House Bill 1176, signed into law May 2 by Gov. Nathan Deal, makes numerous changes to the criminal code and revises punishment provisions for several common crimes, including burglary, theft, shoplifting and forgery.

One of the most significant changes alters requirements for charging someone with a felony in the theft of property – referred
to as “theft by taking.” Formerly, a suspect could be charged with a felony if the value of the stolen property was equal to or greater than $500. That standard has been raised to $1,500.

Richmond County sheriff’s Sgt. James Kelly said he thinks this will mean many more misdemeanor charges – which carry a maximum of 12 months’ incarceration and generally about a $1,000 fine.

“It’s going to have a drastic impact because $1,500 is a lot of money,” Kelly said. “That’s a pretty substantial amount that they can get away with for a misdemeanor.”

Solicitor General Charles Evans, who prosecutes misdemeanor thefts in State Court, said he expects his caseload to grow in coming months.

“It certainly going to increase, but it is just hard to say,” he said. “We are in uncharted territory as to determine by how much.”

Theft by taking is one of the most common crimes reported in Richmond County, with more than 8,400 reports in 2011, according to sheriff’s statistics. Evans said the current system doesn’t track monetary value involved, so there is no easy way to look at the previous year to determine how many felony cases would have been misdemeanors under the new law.

Without that comparison, it is anybody’s guess, but Evans is certain the workload will increase.

“Theses cases are more serious in nature,” he said. “They are going to be more demanding because of the amount of money and the attention involved.”

Other changes in the law could also result in more misdemeanor cases coming to State Court, he said. For example, the standard for felony shoplifting increased from $300 to $500 and the state also created a fourth-degree forgery charge, Evans said.

“Possession of a forged check less than $1,500 is now a misdemeanor,” he said.

Evans said depending on the magnitude of the increase in misdemeanor cases, he might need to hire additional prosecutors to handle the work.

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fatboyhog
2082
Points
fatboyhog 07/03/12 - 05:51 am
2
1
What a crock! The upside is,

What a crock! The upside is, now there will be room in jails to lock up those that don't buy health insurance.

seenitB4
93454
Points
seenitB4 07/03/12 - 07:57 am
3
1
Gee

Why not just raise it to $10,000 & let the crooks really go wild!!!!

More will see a bullet now....especially in home breakins.

dichotomy
36121
Points
dichotomy 07/03/12 - 08:29 am
2
1
"which carry a maximum of 12

"which carry a maximum of 12 months’ incarceration and generally about a $1,000 fine"

And what they didn't say is that the maximum sentence will NEVER be given. They objective of these new laws is the NEVER lock up the 90% of the criminals that do the theiving that costs retailers and consumers so much money and causes heartache and grief to homeowners. The vast majority of criminals now will NEVER see jail or a fine. They will get probation and be right back on the street to continue stealing immediately. That was pretty much happening anyway but now with of codified it. The criminals wil no longer have any fear of doing a crime. The only ones who live in fear now are the honest, law abiding citizens and we should be VERY AFRAID. As our vice president would say, this is a big ...........deal. All members, regardless of party, of our illustrious legislative delegation who voted for this should be removed from office. This action was a vote AGAINST protecting us from criminals. As for me, the legislature has left me no choice but to kill them if I catch them. Knowing that no action will be taken against someone stealing my property, I will not call 911 until after they bleed out. The only reason to call the police is to catch criminals and have them punished. We no longer have any hope that they will be punished. If you catch them, do your duty because the justice system will not do theirs.

realitycheck09
312
Points
realitycheck09 07/03/12 - 10:24 am
1
1
It's about common sense

What those of you, above, fail to understand is that we as a state are spending way too much money locking people up. If you want your taxes raised so that you can lock someone up who stole a $700 stereo (or whatever), then be my guest. I'm not interested in that.

It's not about a failure to protect us against criminals, it's about the fact that way too many people in Georgia are locked up and our state is spilling money because of it. We can't afford to pay for colleges, roads, etc. because we're locking people up for piddly stuff like this.

seenitB4
93454
Points
seenitB4 07/03/12 - 11:10 am
2
1
Pleeeeze

reality.....Call us back after YOUR home has been hit 4 or 5 times.....maybe each time 800 or more in damage to YOU......why not...they will have 0 fear of punishment....at the same time YOUR insurance will go thru the roof if you can even keep your insurance.

seenitB4
93454
Points
seenitB4 07/03/12 - 11:13 am
2
0
cool hand luke

You sorta remind me of that sheriff in cool hand luke......saying "What we have here is a failure to communicate"

Little Lamb
47861
Points
Little Lamb 07/03/12 - 12:52 pm
2
1
Government Schools

This article demonstrates the lack of critical thinking ability in so many of those walking around today. The article says that the case load of the state courts (misdemeanors) will go up because of the re-classification. The article makes that sound like the sky is falling. What the article fails to say is that the case load of the superior courts (felonies) will go down by the corresponding amount.

Chicken Little can calm down now.

itsanotherday1
46753
Points
itsanotherday1 07/03/12 - 01:58 pm
1
0
What is the logic behind

What is the logic behind this? RC says it is to relieve prison overcrowding; but I don't see that as a legitimate reason. I would rather release a burglar who has done 8 of their 10 years to make room for the guy who stole my $1400 bicycle, than give him a fine and a walk.

dichotomy
36121
Points
dichotomy 07/03/12 - 02:55 pm
1
1
The logic is that our court

The logic is that our court system does not want to bother themselves dealing with the "piddly" criminals. But based on what happened here a few months ago, apparently when the "piddly" criminals show up at the judge's house the judge kills them. That will be my approach too.

As for it costing too much to lock these criminals up, there are legal, constitutional solutions to that bogus problem. You can lock up all the criminals you can catch and the cost is almost literally nothing. Just contact Sheriff Joe Arpaio down in Maricopa County, AZ. Legal, constitutional, and CHEAP......and when they get out they do not want to come back. They either go straight or they leave the area. Sounds like a plan to me. Lock them up or call the coroner...it's their choice.

realitycheck09
312
Points
realitycheck09 07/03/12 - 03:03 pm
1
0
Try Again.

itsanotherday-

That's a totally different argument. If you want to lock up thieves instead of burglars, then that's a policy choice. I imagine most people would disagree with you. I certainly do.

seenitb4 - what you're describing isn't affected by the law. You're describing a burglary - which is still a felony. The new state law only affects theft offenses which don't involve force or entry to a home. So, to your point, we do have a failure to communicate because you do not understand what sort of crimes are affected and what crimes are not. So, try again.

KSL
139571
Points
KSL 07/03/12 - 03:25 pm
0
0
Stealing a bicycle from a

Stealing a bicycle from a front porch is not burglary or a lawn mower. You can be "hit" at home and suffer losses without someone breaking in.

realitycheck09
312
Points
realitycheck09 07/03/12 - 03:40 pm
1
0
Fair enough, KSL. But,

Fair enough, KSL. But, again, considering we have limited resources, I would rather that person not go to prison. I'd rather that money pay for roads, schools, or really almost anything else than the 20-30k a year it takes to lock someone up.

Jake
33316
Points
Jake 07/03/12 - 04:43 pm
0
0
Priorities

Get used to it. We are having to prioritize our crimes and what Georgia is doing seems to be a logical step.

Willow Bailey
20603
Points
Willow Bailey 07/03/12 - 06:10 pm
0
0
Jake is right.

We are seeing the introduction to budgeting 101. There isn't enough money in the pot to pay for all the things we have been paying for, statewide and nationwide. It's much smarter to prioritize than to bankrupt. Not only do we have to cut and trim expenditures, we have to do the same to programs...shrink government and grow the economy.

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