2005-04-09 14:46:54 UTC
Pinching of mudbugs frequently ignored
Saturday, April 09, 2005
By Ed Anderson
BATON ROUGE -- If you're a cattle rustler or a horse thief, they can throw
you in the slammer for 10 years, fine you $5,000 or both. But what should
the penalty be for stealing a crawfish?
Right now, the punishment is the same as it is for stealing a cow, horse,
mule, sheep, chicken or goat -- and state Rep. Mickey Frith, D-Kaplan,
says that's too harsh.
Frith said crawfish rustling is a big problem in his district but that
judges are reluctant to send someone up the river for 10 years. So he has
filed House Bill 127 to bring the penalty more in line with the crime.
Though judges now have the option to sentence a crawfish-nabber to less
time, Frith said they're reluctant to sentence mudbug thieves under a law
designed for more serious crimes. Frith said his bill is designed to
impress upon judges, and thieves, that pilfering crawfish is an important
"I do not want it to be treated like a stepchild anymore," Frith said. "I
want to draw more attention to it."
Frith said that under his bill the penalties would be based on the value
of the crawfish taken.
The bill says that when crawfish worth less than $300 are stolen, the
penalty would be up to six moths in jail, a fine of as much as $500, or
both. When the amount stolen ranges from $300 to $500, the penalty would
grow to a maximum of two years in jail, a fine of up to $2,000 or both.
For theft of crawfish exceeding $500, the penalties would be up to 10
years in jail, a fine of up to $3,000 or both.
Frith said he may "tighten the bill up" to require a minimum jail sentence
or fine when the legislative session starts April 25.
"It is a serious crime in Vermilion Parish," Frith said. "There are young
people who go into the (crawfish) ponds at night, empty the cages and take
four, five sacks of crawfish, then sell them.
"There are some farmers who are now spending the nights out there armed
with shotguns and rifles. . . . I don't want somebody shot for stealing
. . . . . .
Ed Anderson can be reached at ***@timespicayune.com or (225)
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