Bill increasing criminal penalties for crimes during natural, man-made disasters advances

The Kentucky Senate will have to vote to concur on changes made to the bill by the House before it can be sent to the governor's desk

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Thieves looking to steal property in an area impacted by a natural or man-made disaster would face harsher penalties under Senate Bill 179.

The Kentucky House of Representatives approved the measure Tuesday. House Majority Caucus Chair Suzanne Miles, of Owensboro, presented SB 179 on the House floor on behalf of the bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Danny Carroll, of Benton.

During a declaration of emergency due to a natural or man-made disaster, those guilty of assault, burglary, criminal trespass, criminal mischief, theft, receiving stolen property and robbery, would face harsher penalties under SB 179.

Miles said the legislation is for those “people preying upon people at their worst time.”

For example, first-degree burglary would become a Class A felony, second-degree burglary would become a Class B felony, and third-degree burglary would become a Class C felony during a declaration.

Republican Rep. C. Ed Massey, of Hebron, successfully amended SB 179 on the House floor to define impact areas. Massey said the amendment is necessary because a natural or man-made disaster often does not impact the entire state.

Democratic Rep. Keturah Herron, of Louisville, also attempted to amend SB 179 on the House floor, but the amendment failed by a 29-58 roll call vote. Herron wanted to amend the bill to allow a sentencing judge or jury to decline to impose the enhanced penalties.

“This safety net ensures that juries and judges in disaster areas can determine who truly deserves the enhanced penalties based on the facts established at trial,” Herron said.

The House approved an amended version of SB 179 by an 84-10 vote. The Senate approved the original version of SB 179 by 34-1 vote on March 8.

The Senate will have to vote to concur on the changes made to the bill by the House before it can be sent to the governor’s desk for his signature or veto.

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