Proposed legislation would alter burglary laws to allow more severe punishment
by Rachael Griffin
rgriffin@annistonstar.com
Jan 30, 2013 | 4422 views |  0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Patrick Houston works on a phone/alarm system at Telephone Communications in Anniston. A bill being proposed to the Alabama Legislature seeks to reclassify burglary laws so offenders receive more severe punishment. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
Patrick Houston works on a phone/alarm system at Telephone Communications in Anniston. A bill being proposed to the Alabama Legislature seeks to reclassify burglary laws so offenders receive more severe punishment. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
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A new bill sponsored by a local state representative seeks to reclassify burglary laws so offenders receive more severe punishment.

Rep. Randy Wood, R-Anniston, plans to introduce a bill to the Legislature next month that seeks to amend the Code of Alabama’s second-degree burglary law. Under Alabama law, second-degree burglary is committed when a person unlawfully enters a lawfully occupied residence with intent to commit a theft or felony inside. Wood’s bill would alter second-degree burglary to read when a person “enters a livable dwelling-house, whether occupied or not, with intent to commit a theft or a felony therein.”

Wood said the Alabama Fraternal Order of Police asked him to review the idea. Wood said he’s hoping this change will discourage burglars from entering a home, even if someone is not home.

Capt. Bill Kennedy, chairman of the FOP legislative committee, said he’s hoping the bill will help the burglary victims. Kennedy said his committee came up with the idea for the bill last year and presented it to Wood. According to Kennedy, 90 percent of all burglaries occur when a person is at work. Burglars are aware they’ll receive lesser penalties — usually probation for first-time offenders — when they burglarize an empty home, Kennedy said. The FOP and Kennedy hope this bill will deter burglaries with the punishment of jail time, regardless of whether the homeowner is present during the offense.

Wood has first-hand knowledge of what it feels like to be a victim of burglary after his home was broken into several years ago. “You feel violated,” Wood said. “It’s bad when you have your house broken into.”

Wood said under second-degree burglary laws, a homeowner could return in the middle of a burglary and the incident would be classified as a third-degree burglary because the homeowner was not in the house at the time. Third-degree burglary is a Class C felony with a minimum punishment of one year and one day in jail and a maximum of 10 years, according to police. Second-degree burglary is considered a Class B felony, the minimum punishment is two years in jail and the maximum is 20.

Matthew Wade, chief deputy of the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office, said he supports the bill. He said most intruders tend to burglarize houses during the day and businesses at night.

“If you go into somebody’s home and you burglarize it, what should you get? In my opinion you should get the max penalty under the law,” Wade said.

Anniston police Lt. Fred Forsythe said he believes the bill will be a good thing if it passes. “All these years we’ve worked under the law that (homes) being occupied was more of a serious crime than not,” Forsythe said.

The lieutenant said his experience has taught him that burglars usually hope a house is not occupied and are surprised when it is.

Many local homeowners and businesses opt for security systems to avoid burglaries. Kenneth Bice, president of TCI, a company that installs security systems in Anniston, said his systems have helped catch burglars in the act and prevent theft.

Bice said recently a burglar triggered an alarm and when police arrived they caught the man still trying to find his way inside the building. He estimated his company installs nearly 130 security systems each year. He said making it known that a house has a security system can be a crime deterrent.

“Most homes are easy to break into,” Bice said. “They’d rather not break into a house that has a burglar alarm.”

Staff Writer Rachael Griffin: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @RGriffin_Star.

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