KS shoplifting laws sending repeat offenders straight to prison www.privateofficer.com
Wichita KS April 30 2012 For one shoplifter, stealing a utility knife with a $1.59 price tag tipped sentencing so he received a prison term measured in years — not months as he had been on his 18 prior thefts and shoplifting convictions.
Latiseia Stano was sentenced to 57 months and placed on probation, but that was revoked when he violated probation, according to court records.
Convicted shoplifters who earlier were placed on probation or short jail sentences are facing years in state prison based on beefed-up state statutes used by the Shawnee County District Attorney’s office.
Prosecutors use the aggravated burglary statute plus a new state statute that transforms multiple shoplifting convictions to a felony. That equals prison terms.
Anyone who commits three shopliftings, which equals a felony, is a super shoplifter or serial shoplifter, District Attorney Chad Taylor said.
The district attorney’s office has used the statutes to prosecute shoplifters 75 times.
“Purpose of the program is that our business partners in the community were sick and tired of being stolen blind,” Taylor said.
The district attorney’s office released a list of 12 super shoplifters, including Mark E. Lucas, 42, of Topeka, who is serving 11 years and six months for shoplifting-related cases and faces yet another case.
Here is how the prosecutions work.
Of the two offenses prosecutors use, the more serious crime is aggravated burglary. When someone shoplifts from a store, the store often bans him or her from returning. The ban extends to all stores in a commercial chain and doesn’t have a time limit.
If the offender re-enters the store, that triggers the elements of an aggravated burglary, senior assistant district attorney Matt Patterson said.
Those elements are entering an occupied business without authority with the intent to steal something, according to Kansas law.
An aggravated burglary is a person felony on the Kansas sentencing grid. The grid combines the number of a defendant’s past convictions with the crime’s severity to determine the prison sentence.
Convictions for person felonies rapidly move an offender up the sentencing grid into heavier sentences.
For instance, someone without a criminal history or only one misdemeanor conviction has a criminal history I. Someone with one person felony has a criminal history D, which carries a minimum sentence of 50 months. Two person felonies is a B criminal history with 114 months, and someone with three person felonies has a criminal history A with 122 months.
Put another way, the number of person felonies “dramatically” increases the prison sentence, Patterson said.
The second crime is theft with two prior convictions.
According to a Kansas statute, a shoplifter earlier convicted of two misdemeanor shopliftings faces prosecution of felony theft if he or she commits a third shoplifting.
A first-time shoplifter normally would be sentenced to 12 months of probation and carries a maximum sentence of one year.
David McDonald, Lucas’ attorney, said the penalties are too severe.
“I think it has gone too far,” McDonald said, adding that entering an occupied home, another type of aggravated burglary, isn’t the same as a shoplifting.
“The penalty doesn’t mix with the actual harm done,” McDonald said.
Lucas’ addiction to crack cocaine fuels his stealing to get cash to buy crack, Lucas has said a number of times in court.
The scenario is that Lucas drinks a few beers, he gets drunk, he wants to buy crack, he steals a DVD player, and he buys crack, McDonald said.
“I take full responsibility for these crimes,” Lucas told Shawnee County District Court Judge Mark Braun before he was sentenced. “I’ve been an addict for 23 years,” adding he never committed a crime while he was sober.
Lucas’ shoplifting combined with aggravated burglaries boosted him to a criminal history A, and he was sentenced March 7 to 10 years and two months for aggravated burglary.
In district court on Wednesday, assistant district attorney Jessica Domme said Lucas had 33 convictions on his criminal history.
Besides shoplifting-related offenses, the crimes include interference with a city officer, misdemeanor battery, drunk driving, driving on a suspended license, and felony obstruction of an officer.
“He is one of those people we call a super shoplifter who hasn’t stopped,” Domme said in court.
Domme recommended Lucas receive two 16-month sentences for two more theft convictions. McDonald recommended concurrent sentences.
“Walmart will be safe from my client for at least 10 years,” McDonald said. The judge added 16 months to the sentence of 10 years and two months.
Lucas next will appear in court on May 8 on pending charges of aggravated burglary and theft with two prior convictions.