Prosecutors Want to Treat Shoplifters Like Burglars; Will the Supreme Court Let Them?

Abbie Leann Welch walked into a Walmart during business hours and out again with a purse stuffed full of stolen clothes. Her lawyer says she’s a shoplifter. Knox County prosecutors in Tennessee say she’s a burglar.

The difference? Six years for Welch after a jury found her guilty in 2017 of misdemeanor theft and burglary, a felony. Her lawyer, Patrick Phillips, wants the Tennessee Supreme Court to decide whether prosecutors can treat such cases, traditionally handled as petty theft and trespassing, like felonies on the same level as a prowler who breaks into a store after closing time.

“There’s a fundamental fairness that’s violated,” Phillips told the court’s five justices Wednesday. “There was never a burglary in the first place. I was at the courthouse talking to the other lawyers (when Welch was indicted), and none of us could figure out how they were going to make it burglary or why they were going to make it a burglary.” Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen in 2016 began… Knox News

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