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Bill that adjusts penalties for low-level property crimes passes House

Oklahoma Capitol

OKLAHOMA CITY – Another criminal justice reform measure is headed to the Oklahoma Senate after being approved on the House floor.

House Bill 2281 would adjust the penalties for 21 low-level property offenses like larceny, forgery and other ‘paper crimes.’

The author of the bill, Rep. Terry O’Donnell, claims the bill will help reduce the state’s female incarceration rate, which is the highest in the nation.

“Many women in our prison system have been convicted of low-level, non-violent crimes like larceny, forgery and writing bad checks,” said O’Donnell. “In fact, convictions for those crimes are where we are seeing some of the greatest growth in our corrections system. This is a prime example of an area where we can reform our system, reduce our prison population, rehabilitate offenders and keep families together.”

O’Donnell says that between 2011 and 2015, the number of people entering the prison system for property crimes grew by 29 percent. At the same time, the average sentence length grew by 11 percent.

House Bill 2281 creates a tiered penalty structure for property offenses based on value.

  • For crimes totaling $1,000 or less, the penalty would be up to one year in prison.
  • For crimes totaling $1,000 to $2,500, the penalty would be up to two years in prison.
  • For crimes totaling $2,500 to $15,000, the penalty would be up to five years in prison.
  • For crimes exceeding $15,000, the penalty would be up to eight years in prison.

It would also create sentence enhancements for organized retail theft and repeat offenders. It allows multiple thefts that take place in separate incidents to be aggregated to reach the felony threshold.

“Shoplifting gangs have become a real problem for retail businesses, where you have several people enter the store together, grab merchandise and run out,” said O’Donnell. “This gives local district attorneys a stronger enforcement mechanism to curb that criminal behavior.”

It passed the House with a vote of 67-17. The bill now heads to the Senate for a final vote.