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Punishment For Property Crimes Under Evaluation

A group of Indiana legislators, law enforcement experts and government officials is examining portions of the state’s criminal code in an attempt to deal with the state’s overcrowded prisons. The Criminal Code Evaluation Commission discussed property crimes Wednesday.

Indiana is the only state in the nation that doesn’t have different grades for theft–essentially, stealing a pack of gum and stealing $100,000 look the same under Indiana law.

Bloomington Representative Matt Pierce says the goal of altering the criminal code is to ensure there is room in Hoosier prisons for those considered a danger to society. “You don’t want to clog up your prisons with people who can be dealt with and deterred from criminal activity in other ways.”

One recommendation the Commission approved lowers theft from a felony to a misdemeanor if the value of the items stolen is less than $750. But Logansport Senator Randy Head has a problem drawing that distinction. He uses the example of a purse-snatcher: “We’re saying if, by that guy’s dumb luck, the contents of the purse add up to a value of $749, he should only be treated as a misdemeanor. But if it’s $751, that guy’s a felon, and there’s no difference in his behavior whatsoever. So that really doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”

The General Assembly can consider the Commission’s recommendations next session.

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