Debate continues on minimum sentences for porch theft

On Behalf of | Mar 16, 2021 | Criminal Law

In South Carolina, lawmakers may make a statement about the critical nature of a crime by increasing its seriousness under the law. This is what legislators are proposing with a potential new “porch theft” law. The law would target the crime of stealing boxes delivered to peoples’ front porches before they have a chance to bring them inside, making it a felony and increasing the minimum sentence to 5 years. Recently, state lawmakers discussed the bill but elected to postpone voting on it.

Debate centers on harshness of mandatory minimum sentences

One of the key points of debate regarding the law is the harshness of its penalties. Under the proposal, a mandatory minimum of five years would apply to anyone who stole a box from a front porch even once. Critics of the law suggest lowering this and instead providing for a range of sentences from probation to 15 years, so the seriousness of the crime and past offenses can be considered in sentencing.

Similar laws on the books in other states

The proposed law, “Defense Against Porch Pirates Act,” comes on the heels of several other states passing porch theft-specific laws. Although theft in general is illegal in the state of South Carolina, this law specifically targets a certain type of crime, involving the stealing of a delivered box that has not yet been moved inside. Other states have passed laws increasing punishments on these crimes in an effort to combat the rising rates of porch theft.

Implications will continue to be discussed

Lawmakers chose to postpone voting on this bill, citing a need to discuss the many implications that it could have. For example, one issue raised was whether drug court might be an option for individuals convicted of such a crime due to addiction issues. As these laws continue to be discussed, it remains important for those accused of such a crime to speak with a lawyer about the existing sentences, processes, and defenses available to them.

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