Mississippi House panel advances stiff punishment for cargo theft

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, February 01, 2017

One bill on the move at the Mississippi statehouse would deter the theft of truck, rail or container cargo through stiff punishment.

The House Judiciary B Committee voted to advance a bill to establish cargo theft as a specific offense and to impose felony charges with escalating fines and punishment based on the value of goods.

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

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which has about 2,130 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 state legislative 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 whom 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, Rep. Steve Massengill, R-Hickory Flat, introduced the bill that 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.

HB722 awaits further consideration in the House.

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

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