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Governor Signs Legislation to Help Reduce Catalytic Converter Theft

January 13, 2009

New law increases penalties to protect consumers

LANSING - Governor Jennifer M. Granholm has signed legislation to help stop the theft of catalytic converters from motor vehicles by increasing the penalties for theft from a misdemeanor to a felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment or a maximum fine of $10,000, or both.

"The larceny of catalytic converters, copper and other metals has become a very serious problem," Granholm said.  "We are committed to putting an end to this kind of destructive criminal activity by vandals trying to make a quick buck at the expense of others."

Since the value of a catalytic converter is less than the felony threshold for most larcenies, this increasingly common and very invasive crime was only a misdemeanor offense.  The new laws will provide a more severe punishment with hopes of deterring thieves in search of easy money from scrap metal.

The theft of various types of metal has been on the increase due to rising scrap prices.  Most often, this results in the theft of copper tubing from construction sites or copper wiring from telephone or utility lines or other facilities.  However, as metal prices continue to rise, thieves have begun to target catalytic converters.

"The theft of catalytic converters is on the rise," said Col. Peter C. Munoz, director of the Michigan State Police.  "This type of crime occurs both day and night, and we've seen thieves target areas where numerous cars are parked, such as parking garages and shopping malls."

Catalytic converters are emissions control devices required to be installed on all motor vehicles since 1975.  They contain small amounts of precious metals, such as platinum, palladium, or rhodium.

The governor recently signed legislation to help stop illegal sales and purchases of copper and other stolen metals.  The new laws strengthen regulation and oversight of scrap metal dealers and sales.  Under the new law, a person who knowingly buys or sells stolen scrap metal will be subject to felony penalties, including imprisonment for up to five years or a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

The new laws take effect April 1, 2009.

Senate Bill 1193 (PA 475) was sponsored by Senator Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) and House Bill 6022 (PA 473) was sponsored by Representative Mary Valentine (D-Muskegon).

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