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Under current law, it is a felony of the third degree if a person tampers with or destroys property without the consent of the owner and the pecuniary loss between $30,000 and $150,000. HB 2817 would also make it a felony of the third degree under the criminal mischief statute if a person causes the death of one or more head of cattle, bison, or horses through discharging a firearm or other weapon or by any other means.
This bill would also create an exception to prosecution for property damage if a head of cattle, bison, or a horse was killed in the course of the actor's regular agricultural labor duties and practices.
If the penalty for criminal mischief involving a pecuniary loss to the victim of at least $30,000 is a third degree felony, setting the same penalty for killing a single head of livestock is disproportionate to the crime because in general a single head of livestock is not worth $30,000. (Though certainly there are exceptions for specific animals.)
Setting a penalty that is disproportionate to the crime is a form of overcriminalization. Why, for example, should killing an animal valued at $5,000 result in a tougher sentence than destroying $20,000 of property? We would withdraw our objection if the bill were to be amended to set the penalty for killing cattle, bison, or horses to be based on the economic value of the livestock and pegged to the regular pecuniary scale in the criminal mischief statute.