How much time in prison would you receive from stealing a remote? A few days? Months? No jail time at all?
What about 22 years?
This is the case for Eric Bramwell, 35, of Illinois. Back in August of 2015, the man stole a universal remote from an apartment building. He left a glove at the scene and DNA evidence traced the theft back to him.
Like a shoplifter suffering from kleptomania, Bramwell has a history of stealing remotes and televisions from apartment buildings in the surrounding area, so when he was found guilty, sentencing guidelines determined he could serve up to 30 years in prison.
His 22 years don’t go quite that far, and he can become eligible for parole after serving half his sentence, but it still seems like an incredibly high price to pay for taking a remote.
How did Bramwell get to the point where a remote theft was worthy of up to 30 years in prison?
It Comes Down to Having a History of Felony Theft
Bramwell’s history of theft is one of the driving factors behind his lengthy sentence, because he has committed a half-dozen similar thefts since 2014. It also doesn’t help his case that Illinois has a history of cracking down on theft harder than any other state in the country.
As we’ve mentioned previously, stealing only $300 worth of merchandise or goods is a class 4 felony in our state. Stealing $500 is a class 3 felony.
Think about the cost of a television or universal remote. It doesn’t take long for someone to pick up $300 or even $500 worth of merchandise.
Felony crimes qualify people for more than a year in prison, costing taxpayers money to keep low-level offenders behind bars. Luckily, the New Year brings a big change in the way prosecutors will handle theft cases by raising the bar for felony crimes.
From $300 to $1,000
Kim Foxx was sworn in as the Cook County State’s Attorney at the beginning of December, and has already made some big changes to the way criminal justice is meted out in Illinois. One of the first moves she made in her new position included raising the felony threshold for theft from $300 to $1,000. That’s a huge difference.
Illinois is following in the footsteps of many other states that have raised the felony theft threshold. Since 2001, 30 states have done this, including three states that have done so twice.
For those who are skeptical of how these rules affect retail businesses and crime rates, research has shown that raising the threshold has no major effect on crime rates. What the felony threshold does have an effect on is how many people are put in jail for theft, and how much these smaller theft crimes cost American taxpayers.
In the past, individuals charged with felony theft spent more time in prison awaiting their fate than they did serving an actual sentence. Last year alone, these days in jail cost taxpayers over $674,000.
This raised threshold is good news for everyone, but even though thefts under $1,000 are now considered misdemeanor crimes in our state, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take them seriously. A history of theft – or any other type of crime – adds up eventually. Just look at the case of Eric Bramwell!
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, Murder, and drug crimes.