Mississippi bill would set stiff punishment for cargo theft

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, January 04, 2018

One Mississippi state lawmaker is back with a bill intended to deter the theft of truck, rail or container cargo through stiff punishment.

Rep. Steve Massengill, R-Hickory Flat, sponsored a bill one year ago to establish cargo theft as a specific offense and impose felony charges with escalating fines and punishment based on the value of goods. The House and Senate approved differing versions of the bill but failed to reach agreement on provisions before the 2017 regular session ended.

According to FreightWatch International, Mississippi ranks in the top 20 of states in the number of cargo thefts. California, Texas, Florida, New Jersey and Georgia comprise the top five.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which has about 2,170 members residing in Mississippi, says the legislative effort to deter cargo theft is a reasonable and overdue deterrent intended to better protect the livelihood of the men and women that help drive the economy.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of government affairs, said cargo theft is bad for everyone involved in the supply chain, especially truck drivers.

“When a trucker becomes the victim of theft it can be financially devastating,” Matousek said. “Such an occurrence could effectively put our members, the majority of which are single truck owner-operators, out of business.

“The same goes for those involved in seasonal operations as they miss out on a year’s income in a short period of time.”

In an effort to discourage thefts in Mississippi, Massengill’s new bill calls for offenders to face prison in addition to monetary penalties. Specifically, thieves who steal cargo from trucks loaded with controlled substances, or pharmaceuticals, valued at less than $10,000 would face fines up to $100,000 and/or up to 10 years in prison.

Theft of controlled substances valued up to $1 million could result in as much as 25 years behind bars and/or fines up to $1 million. Loads valued in excess of $1 million could result in prison terms as long as 30 years and/or fines up to $1 million.

Violators of other property heists valued as much as $1,000 would face misdemeanor charges. Theft of cargo valued as high as $10,000 would include fines up to $100,000 and/or 10 years behind bars. Stolen loads valued in excess of $10,000 could result in 20 years in prison and/or fines up to $1 million.

Another provision in the bill covers fifth wheels, and any antitheft locking device attached to the fifth wheel. Any attempt to alter, move or sell a fifth wheel could result in 10-year prison terms and/or $100,000 fines.

HB28 awaits consideration in the House Judiciary B Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Mississippi, click here.

 

 

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