New legislation boosts penalties for car theft, seen as positive initial measure

Car thefts remain a significant issue for people across the state of Mississippi (WLBT, 2021).

Lawmakers are now taking action to put an end to these crimes.

Governor Tate Reeves has officially signed Senate Bill 2174 into law.

If you get caught stealing a car, the legislation will now impose harsher punishment on you.

Marty Milstead, President of the Mississippi Automobile Dealers Association, expressed concern about the rampant organized crime involving car theft. He emphasized that these criminals are not simply taking cars for joyrides, but rather stealing them with the intention of making a profit.

Car thefts are a significant issue that is prevalent across the state of Mississippi, according to Milstead.

According to the speaker, these incidents have occurred in various locations across Mississippi, including the metro area, Brookhaven, Vicksburg, Kosciusko, North Mississippi, and Amory. The sightings have taken place in both big cities and small towns.

Milstead has been actively pushing for lawmakers to raise the penalties and extend prison sentences for individuals who engage in these criminal activities.

Senate Bill 2174 accomplishes exactly that.

According to Milstead, the stolen cars are often stripped or sold by the thieves. The authorities are not only focused on apprehending the car thieves, but also on targeting the buyers of these stolen vehicles. Milstead pointed out that the stolen cars vary in condition, ranging from brand new vehicles to those brought in for servicing.

If someone is found guilty of car theft, this bill imposes consequences on them, regardless of the car’s age and value.

If convicted, they may be subject to a maximum fine of $10,000 and could potentially serve up to 15 years in prison for their first offense.

The penalties for a second conviction are a maximum fine of $20,000 and a possible prison sentence of up to 20 years.

Convicting an individual for stealing from a dealership or any establishment involved in the sale or rental of cars can result in severe consequences. The offender may face a hefty fine of up to $20,000 and a prison sentence of up to 30 years.

“We believe that this is an excellent initial step. Our next objective is to apprehend the offenders, initiate legal proceedings against them, and ensure that they receive appropriate punishments and fines,” Milstead stated.

Alesha Judkins, a criminal justice reform advocate, disagrees with the bill, although Milstead supports it.

Judkins, the State Director for Criminal Justice Reform at FWD.us, expressed her disappointment with the legislation.

In a statement, she expressed her disagreement with the approach of increasing penalties and extending sentences for property crimes. She argued that this strategy goes against the extensive research that highlights the high cost and limited effectiveness of incarceration as a public safety measure. Moreover, she emphasized that the data and public opinion in Mississippi are clear – 72% of voters believe in the importance of safely reducing jail and prison populations. Therefore, she urged leaders not to disregard these voices and instead prioritize evidence-based policies that can effectively enhance public safety while reducing incarceration rates.

Starting on July 1, the bill will go into effect after being signed into law by the governor.

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