Shoplifters or Burglars? Supreme Court Will Decide - Articles

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Posted by: Suzanne Craig Robertson on Sep 5, 2019

The Tennessee Supreme Court this week heard arguments about whether prosecutors can treat cases traditionally handled as petty theft and trespassing as they do felonies, on the same level as a prowler who breaks into a store after closing time, Knoxnews reports. The discussion stems from the practice of Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen, who in 2016 began charging petty thieves who repeatedly stole from stores not as trespassers and shoplifters, but as burglars subject to increased fines and prison sentences. The person in question, Abbie Leann Welch, had been banned from the store but went back anyway. Allen's office says that makes her crime equal to burglary. But Welch's lawyer Patrick Phillips and Jonathan Harwell, a Knox County assistant public defender, say that's stretching the state burglary law beyond its constitutional limits.