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WV House of Delegates passes “boosting” bill


The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the West Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill Tuesday, March 7 that would make it a crime to shoplift from a store with the intention of reselling the stolen goods.

Delegate Rodney Miller, D-Boone, said the bill was introduced to combat the problem of “boosting,” an organized retail crime wherein people are recruited to steal from retail outlets and bring the stolen goods to another location for reselling.

Miller, a former Boone County Sheriff, said pawn shops and other retailers sometimes talk people into shoplifting, then have the people bring the stolen merchandise to their stores, where they give the shoplifters a small amount of money and then resell the stolen items. They often prey on drug addicts to do the stealing, Miller said.

Boosting costs retailers and consumers tens of millions of dollars a year in West Virginia, delegates were told.

The legislation, House Bill 2367, defines boosting as a scheme to shoplift merchandise valued at a total of $1,500 or more twice within a 90-day period with the intent of reselling the merchandise.

Under the provisions of the bill, boosting up to $2,500 worth of merchandise would be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $3,000 and up to a year in jail. Boosting merchandise valued from $2,500 to $10,000 would be a felony with up to $5,000 in fines and one to five years in prison, while boosting merchandise worth more than $10,000 would be a felony punishable by fines up to $10,000 and three to 15 years in prison.

Several delegates, including Delegate Mike Folk, R-Berkeley, questioned the need for a boosting law, saying all of the elements of the crime in the proposed bill were already illegal.

Retailers are generally in favor of the bill, which passed 93-4.

Also Tuesday, Delegates passed another is a series of bills intended to increase penalties for various drug crimes. House Judiciary Chairman Delegate John Shott, R-Mercer, has said the bills were intended to deter out-of-state drug dealers and “send a message” that drug dealers are not welcome in West Virginia.

The latest legislation, House Bill 2579, would increase the penalties for trafficking and transporting drugs into West Virginia with the intent to sell or manufacture other drugs.

Under the provisions of the bill, the maximum penalty for transporting narcotics into the state would be raised from one to 15 years in prison to 10 to 30 years. The maximum penalty for transporting non-narcotic drugs would be raised from one to five years to one to 15.

“This is a stiff penalty, no doubt,” Shott said. “It’s intentionally stiff.”

Some delegates suggested the bill and other bills stiffening penalties passed by the House would end up costing the state a lot more money to keep people in jail longer, and worried the bills would capture low-level addicts instead of the higher-level pushers the legislation is intended to target.

Others doubted the bills would work at all to curb the state’s drug problem.

“We’re doubling down on failed policies from the ‘80s,” said Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio.

The bill passed 88-10.

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