South Carolina delays 5-year minimum for stealing packages

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A small group of South Carolina lawmakers decided Wednesday to postpone voting on a proposal to create a new law specifically to handle people stealing packages from porches, even after the chief supporter admitted a five-year minimum prison sentence was a bit harsh.

Instead, state Rep. Cezar McKnight suggested a range from probation to 15 years for anyone convicted of violating his proposed “ Defense Against Porch Pirates Act.”

“I think that is a bit draconian,” McKnight said of his first thought of a five-year minimum prison sentence.

Theft is already a crime, but passing the new law and making it a felony offense would emphasize how stealing from a porch violates the sanctity people should feel in their home, said McKnight, a Democrat from Kingstree,

“I don’t want someone who has spent their hard-earned money buying something and then having some unscrupulous person come about and just take it off their porch,” McKnight said. “That home is sacred.”

The increase in people buying things online and having them delivered to their home has meant an increase in people taking advantage of grabbing packages that aren’t behind closed doors.

A few other states already specifically made stealing packages off porches illegal with its own punishments. In Texas, it is a felony with a maximum of 10 years in prison if someone steals from more than 30 addresses. Oklahoma, Michigan and California have laws that make a first offense a misdemeanor.

Rep. Seth Rose said he understood the reasoning behind the bill and appreciated McKnight removing the five-year minimum sentence. But it still doesn’t allow someone charged with stealing off porches to go into intervention programs or drug courts that can lead to a charge being erased from their record.

The Democrat from Columbia asked to adjourn debate on McKnight’s bill so there can be more discussion.

“When we pass laws here, there are going to be instances beyond out wildest imaginations,” Rose said.

No sheriffs or law enforcement officials testified about the bill at Wednesday’s House subcommittee hearing.

Calhoun County Sheriff Thomas Summers told The Associated Press he hadn’t studied the bill enough to decide if it was needed.

Package theft isn’t as much of a problem in his rural county of 15,000 where driveways are long and neighbors watch out for one another. But Summers said he suspects the bill symbolizes a bigger problem of people not respecting other people’s property.

“I’m totally against stealing, period. We’ve got a problem with people stealing and sometimes you have to make it clear that stealing is wrong,” Summers said.

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Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.

Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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