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Bill Would Increase Penalties for Theft of Veterans’ Grave Markers, Says Toohil
12/13/2011
HARRISBURG - State Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne) announced today that the House Judiciary Committee, of which she is a member, has approved legislation to address the problem of thefts of veterans’ grave markers that have occurred across the Commonwealth.

“The number of theft cases involving metal grave markers has been on the increase recently in Luzerne County and throughout northeast Pennsylvania,” said Toohil. “Thieves are stealing markers, including those from the graves of veterans, and selling them to scrap metal dealers to make a quick buck. My hope is that harsher penalties will act as a deterrent to this despicable crime. Our veterans have served our country bravely and died for us. It is our duty to protect their final resting places and make sure their memories are honored.”

House Bill 2032’s primary focus is the theft of copper wiring from utility companies and small business owners. The legislation includes language that would cover the theft of metal grave markers as well.

Under the proposal, a person commits the offense if he or she unlawfully takes or attempts to take possession, carries away or exercises unlawful control over any secondary metal with the intent to deprive the rightful owner of the property. Secondary metal is defined as wire or cable commonly used by communications and electrical utilities, copper, aluminum or other metal, or combination of metals, that is valuable for recycling or reuse as raw material.

Under current law, individuals arrested for the theft of a secondary metal, including metal grave markers, are minimally charged with a misdemeanor of the second or third degree. House Bill 2032 would create a system where the offense would be graded and criminals penalized based on the total value of the stolen property. It also cracks down on repeat offenders.

The offense is graded as follows:
• When the value of the secondary metal is less than $50, the offense is graded as a third-degree misdemeanor (maximum penalty one year imprisonment/$2,500 fine).
• When the value of the secondary metal is $50 or more but less than $200, the offense is graded as a second-degree misdemeanor (maximum penalty two years imprisonment/$5,000 fine).
• When the value of the secondary metal is $200 or more but less than $1,000, the offense is graded as a first-degree misdemeanor (maximum penalty five years imprisonment/$10,000 fine).
• When the value of the secondary metal is $1,000 or more, the offense is graded as a third-degree felony (maximum penalty seven years imprisonment/$15,000 fine).
• When the offense is a third or subsequent offense, regardless of the value of the secondary metal, the offense is graded as a third-degree felony.

“I am pleased that this bill addresses the problems in the scrap metal industry and at the same time covers the theft of veterans’ grave markers," said Toohil. “All too often, these criminals receive a slap on the wrist. This legislation makes sure there are serious consequences for committing what I consider to be a serious crime.”

House Bill 2032 now moves to the full House for consideration.

State Representative Tarah Toohil
116th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Rep Toohil's office
717.260.6136
RepToohil.com
Facebook.com/RepToohil
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