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Is Maryland's shopping cart theft law unnecessary?

In the state of Maryland, there is a law that specifically makes it illegal to take a shopping cart off store grounds without permission. According to the law, which was initially passed over 55 years ago, a person will receive a $25 fine for stealing a cart. Now, however, lawmakers in Annapolis are considering doing away with the law entirely.

After one legislator sought to quadruple the fine for cart theft, his peers began to wonder why shopping cart theft isn't treated as a general property theft charge. If the law is repealed, stealing s shopping cart would trigger charges under the general theft statute and include higher potential fines, which may be of particular concern for those who are implicated in a cart-theft incident.

Although the General Assembly has yet to vote on the legal change, it will be important for lawmakers to clearly understand why the law was passed in the first place. Perhaps there is a good reason why cart theft is treated differently than general theft. If the higher fine assigned to the general theft statute is likely to unfairly disadvantage those charged and convicted, it may not be wise to move ahead with the repeal.

Not only could a hefty theft fine be a major burden for an accused individual, but it could prove personally and professionally damaging. A young person, who makes one bad decision as the result of peer pressure, may have to live with a theft charge on their record for decades, which could negatively impact their ability to obtain a job in the future.

Source: Associated Press, "Maryland lawmakers question outdated shopping cart theft law," Hannah Anderson, Jan. 31, 2013

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