There are many major crimes that start out as anything but major. People may make one small mistake that snowballs into more and more serious mistakes, or they may think they are breaking one law with minor penalties but enforcement agents may pursue charges for another. When this happens, a person can understandably be very surprised and scared.
For example, one man recently learned that stealing something worth $50 will lead to federal charges. The case is unusual, but it is not impossible and it should serve as reminder of how quickly a person’s life and potential future could change.
According to reports, the man was arrested for stealing an air conditioning unit. The money made from selling the scrap metal was only about $50, but authorities took a closer look at the alleged thief’s background. They found he had a history of similar activities dating back to 2008.
In an effort to increase the penalties for the man’s conviction and to try and send a message, authorities decided to charge the man with an environmental crime because cutting the copper tubing on the air conditioning units can release hazardous chemicals that damage the ozone.
It may seem like a stretch to charge theft as an environmental crime, but this is exactly what is happening. Now, instead of facing theft charges, the man will be charged with three counts of a federal crime which could land him in jail for 15 years.
The period of time after an arrest when a person is being investigated can be a particularly sensitive time. This is why it can be so crucial for people to secure legal representation as soon as possible when they are in the cross hairs of a police investigation. An attorney can protect a person’s rights and make sure they are not unfairly charged or faced with overly harsh penalties.
Source: KSN.com, “Air conditioning theft being investigated as a federal crime,” Ashley Arnold, March 17, 2015