A former circuit judge who was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2014 this week introduced legislation to increase the felony shoplifting threshold in Alabama by 300%.
Tuesday, Rep. Jim Hill, R-Moody, a former circuit judge in St. Clair County, introduced HB612, sentencing reform legislation aimed at reducing overcrowding in Alabama prisons.
Earlier in the session, Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, introduced similar sentencing legislation – SB325 – that would increase the felony shoplifting threshold in Alabama by 400%.
Both bills are part of a bipartisan effort to keep Alabama’s prisons from being taken over by the federal government.
Hill’s bill would take the minimum amount of theft that would result a felony charge in Alabama from $500 to $2,000, basically allowing shoplifters to steal four times more before they face any punishment of consequence. The average felony threshold in the 10 southeastern states is $880.20, according to Alabama Retail Association research.
Both Hill’s and Singleton’s bills have been assigned to their respective Judiciary Committees. Neither is scheduled for a committee hearing at this time.
Legislative leaders Thursday indicated a special session by the first week of October is being considered to address prison reform, including sentencing reform. Gov. Kay Ivey, who is the only person who could call a special session, however, did not make any commitments. She said in a statement, “I am encouraged to know that the Legislature will continue to work on solutions during the remainder of this session, and we will remain in constant communication with one another during the coming weeks and months to keep this issue on the front burner.”
Meanwhile, the Senate this week approved legislation to create a separate shoplifting crime in Alabama and allow the police to arrest suspected shoplifters inside a store. Under Sen. Clyde Chambliss’ bill, which the Alabama Retail Association supports, the punishments, fines and felony threshold for shoplifting remain the same as they are under the current theft statute. Theft of $500 to $1,499 in a Class D felony in Alabama now.
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