Saturday, April 28, 2012

Modified Home Invasion Bill Clears House

One of two competing bills to create the new crime of "home invasion" has cleared the House of Representatives on a unanimous vote.

One criticism of House Bill 277 -- its comparatively light penalties -- was addressed with a compromise amendment that was added to the measure before its passage.

The reformed bill would designate home invasion as a class B felony with a minimum mandatory sentence of six years in prison for a first offense.  A subsequent violation occurring within five years of the first would be met with no less than eight years behind bars.

The bill further enhances penalties if the victim is a senior citizen (62 years of age or older).  A criminal committing a home invasion against a senior would be imprisoned for at least seven years, with repeat offenses punishable with at least nine years in jail.

"All legislators recognized the seriousness of this situation - that we don't really have a law on the books for home invasion," said the bill's prime sponsor, State Rep. Debra Heffernan, D-Brandywine Hundred South.

A competing bill, Senate Bill 16, sponsored by Sen. Dave Lawson, R-Marydel, seeks to make home invasion a Class A felony, carrying a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison for a first offense and a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole for a second.  That bill remains in Senate Judiciary Committee, where it has languished for more than three months.

House Bill 277 now heads to the Senate for consideration.

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