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Change in law could send more inmates out of county

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 4, 2014

A change in state law that went into effect Tuesday could cause local inmates convicted of theft to be shipped out of county to serve misdemeanor sentences.

An overhaul of the state’s criminal justice code went into effect July 1, and part of the changes raises the limit of property value that most be stolen in order to charge a suspect with grand larceny.

The threshold was previously $500 but on Tuesday it became $1,000, meaning that convicted of stealing items falling into that price range — cellphones, weed trimmers, lawn mowers, power tools — will stand trial in Warren County Justice Court rather than face a felony trial in Circuit Court.

The new laws provide for a number of alternative sentences, but if one of these misdemeanor offenders is sentenced to local jail time for stealing something valued at up to $999, the Warren County Jail can’t hold them, Sheriff Martin Pace said after speaking Tuesday at Vicksburg Kiwanis.

State law prevents the co-mingling of misdemeanor offenders and pre-trial felony suspects in a jail facility, he said.

“Our jail is 100 percent full of pre-trial felony suspects,” Pace said. “We will have to find housing in a jail outside of Warren County and pay to have those convicted of misdemeanor housed there.”

Much of Pace speech at Kiwanis was focused on burglary — forcefully breaking into a building or vehicle — and grand larceny — carrying away property.

Of the 76 burglaries reported last year in Vicksburg, most where auto burglaries, Pace said.

“Somewhere around 95 percent of our burglaries involved unlocked vehicles with property life in the vehicle including loaded firearms,” Pace said.

Pace’s suggest to was to always lock doors and keep valuables out of site.

“You can’t prevent that person from breaking into your house, but you can help keep yourself from being a victim,” Pace said.