Rep. Helio Melo has introduced legislation that would impose stricter penalties on people who commit home invasions.
“Home invasion is a significantly bolder, more terrifying and more dangerous crime than an ordinary breaking-and-entering,” said Representative Melo (D-Dist. 64, East Providence). “While having someone enter your home and rob you is always damaging and frightening, having it occur while you are actually there puts you at serious risk for physical danger as well as lasting psychological detriment. Our laws should recognize the difference between breaking and entering and home invasion, and should punish those who commit home invasions in a way that better reflects the severity of that crime.”
Currently, people convicted of breaking and entering, regardless of whether the home is occupied, are to be punished with jail time of two to 10 years for the first offense, and four to 15 years and up to $10,000 in fines for subsequent offenses, along with restitution and community service. There is a section of the bill addressing break-ins that occur when the home is occupied, and although it stipulates that perpetrators of those crimes would not be eligible for probation or suspended or deferred sentences, it also actually allows home-invasion perpetrators to be given lighter sentences: as little as one year in prison and fines of not more than $5,000. Also, it applies only when the break-in is not the perpetrator’s first breaking-and-entering conviction.
Representative Melo’s bill (2016-H 7173) would ensure all home-invasion crimes are punished more severely than regular break-ins and provide even stronger penalties if a victim is assaulted during the ordeal. His bill, which is being heard by the House Judiciary Committee today, would increase the prison sentence to four to 15 years for the first conviction. For all subsequent convictions of breaking and entering with a person present, the penalty would increase to five to 20 years. (Although it would restore the possibility of probation and suspended or deferred sentences for those who are convicted for the first time, second-time and subsequent offenders would remain ineligible.)
If a victim is assaulted during the invasion, the penalties automatically become 5 to 20 years in prison with fines of up to $10,000, regardless of whether it is the perpetrator’s first conviction under the statute. Community service and restitution would remain the same throughout the statute.
“A home invasion, particularly one in which a victim is assaulted, is a crime directly against people, not just their property and belongings. A burglar who either doesn’t care whether someone is home or actually intends to confront or harm the victim during the crime is a very dangerous criminal who should be punished accordingly under the law,” said Representative Melo.
Representative Melo thanked the East Providence Police Department and Chief Christopher Parella, with whom he worked to develop the legislation.
“Nothing hits closer to home than when someone breaks into your personal space. It’s a horrible, horrible feeling. But it goes from extremely bad to even worse when it happens while you’re there. It’s one of the worst violations of a victim’s privacy and security,” said Chief Parella. “We welcome higher mandatory sentences and the changes this bill makes to strengthen the law, and we appreciate all the work that went into it. Hopefully this will deter some of the people who would commit this crime, and get those who are doing it off the streets for longer periods of time.”
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