Changes to the sentences

Published 7:00 am Saturday, July 26, 2014

Several changes to how offenses are prosecuted went into effect this month; others will go into effect later this year.

Fifteenth District Attorney Hal Kittrell held a meeting with law enforcement and court personnel earlier this month to update them on the changes House Bill 585 brought.

Some of those changes deal with violent offenses.

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In a recent interview with the Item, he said changes to how the offenders will serve out violent crime convictions will occur differently. Now, when a defendant is convicted of a violent offense they will have to serve at least 50 percent of their sentence.

“I’m happy to get 50 percent with the way it’s been,” Kittrell said. “At least now we know they got to do 10 years.”

Drug convictions also changed. Some possession charges are now categorized on graduated levels. What used to be a 30-year charge for the sale of a controlled substance has been reduced to about eight years. There is also the possibility of being released after serving 25 percent of their time; Kittrell said the policy used to be 85 percent.

There is also the possibility of adjudication for sale and possession charges, which means if a person on probation complies with the terms of their release, the charge will fall off of their record.

Property charges have also changed. In order for property theft to be considered grand larceny the value of the stolen goods must value $1,000 or more. Additionally, the value of the property will now be determined at the time it was stolen and not be based on the purchase price.

Kittrell sees that change putting pressure on lower courts, such as county courts, as it will push more cases their way.

House Bill 412, which will go in to effect on Oct. 1, will bring some changes to DUI offenses. Instead of the defendant’s license being suspended, the defendant can request to have an interlock device installed in their vehicle, which would prevent them from driving drunk, Kittrell said.

The bill will also remove the fourth DUI offense, reducing subsequent offenses past a third to five years in jail, Kittrell said. He said he and others intend to lobby to put the fourth offense back on the books, which could result in a ten-year sentence.

“DUI guys come around and around,” Kitrrell said.

Another change that occurred involved the collection of DNA samples from violent offense defendants, called “Katie’s Law”. While the program was approved, it did not receive funding, Kittrell said. He said the law is set up to establish a DNA database by collecting a sample when a suspect is charged with a violent offense. That sample would be logged with the state crime lab. If the defendant pleas or is found guilty that sample would be kept on record indefinitely.

However, if they are found innocent the sample is discarded.

Over the course of the next year Kittrell said he will work to find funding to establish that database.

“585 is probably one of the most comprehensive overhauls that I’ve seen in my past 14 years,” Kittrell said.