Tennessee law could be benefiting career criminals

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A Memphis man has now been convicted for the 55th time.

Ernest Ervin has been in and out of handcuffs for decades and for mostly theft crimes.

His most recent crime happened in August on Techno Lane.

"You do it 55 times, I'd be like, 'Oh okay! Ain't nothing going to happen to me!' I might as well do it again," said Deandre Stevenson.

Knowing what it's like to have his car ransacked by thieves, Stevenson wasn't happy to hear about a change in Tennessee law that could benefit career criminals.

"It don't feel good at all," he said.

Up until last year, if you stole $500 or more, you faced a felony charge and up to six years in jail.

Now, state lawmakers bumped that up to $1,000. That means a thief can essentially swipe up to $999 worth of stuff and get a misdemeanor.

"They don't stay in jail very long. It's not a personal crime. It's not a crime against people," said MPD Colonel Darrell Sheffield.

He told WREG officers are busy investigating thefts and making arrests, but the state law isn't helping their cause.

HE said he's seeing more thefts from motor vehicles. In fact, MPD's crime tracker shows more than 1,000 just this year.

"Depending on what happens, sometimes those are lowered to mere theft instead of a burglary itself. You're talking about a felony to a misdemeanor and then out of jail," said Sheffield.

Lawmakers told WREG they changed the law, because it was outdated.

For example, they said if someone were to steal an iPhone, that would have been a felony charge, and it's not worthy of up to six years in prison.

They did point out a misdemeanor comes with jail time too. It's up to the judge to enforce it.