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Shoplifting Fine Increase, Prior Authorizations and More: #MSLeg Roundup

Shoplifters would have to pay higher fines after each misdemeanor shoplifting conviction under a bill Mississippi House representatives passed last week.

If a person steals no more than $1,000 worth of merchandise, they must pay a fine for each charge. The current shoplifting fees are $1,000 for the first offense, $2,500 for the second and $3,000 for the third. If House Bill 438 became law, it would raise those numbers to $1,500, $3,000 and $4,000, respectively.

Shoplifting under $1,000 worth of items is a misdemeanor. After $1,000, it becomes a felony.

“There’s a real problem that retailers are having right now with people taking stuff that doesn’t belong to them,” the bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Gene Newman, R-Pearl, said on the House floor on Feb. 20. Despite a nationwide panic over shoplifting over the past year, data show that shoplifting is not on the rise in most of the country.

Read H.B. 438

Rep. Tracey Rosebud, D-Tutwiler, asked what would happen if a child stole a candy bar from a store, and Newman clarified that H.B. 438 only references adults.

Jeffery Harness, D-Fayette, wondered how the bill would deter potential shoplifters who do not know the fines increased.

“I’ve been involved in the criminal-justice system for almost 50 years in the bail-bonding business, and I can tell you that when penalties go up, the amount of crime goes down in that particular instance,” Newman told Harness. “And when it’s relaxed, the crime rate goes up.”

When Harness asked about data to back up the representative’s observations, Newman said he did not have any numbers, just real-world examples.

Reps. Jill Ford, R-Madison, and Rodney Hall, D-Southaven, joined Newman as cosponsors on H.B. 438. The House passed the bill 89-28 on Feb. 20. It moves to the Senate, where senators will decide whether to take it up. If the Senate approved H.B. 438 with no changes, it would go to Gov. Tate Reeves for his signature.

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