SALT LAKE CITY - Jean Valjean would get four chances before being sent to prison for stealing a loaf of bread, under the terms of a bill that cleared the state Senate on Tuesday.
A proposal dubbed the "Jean Valjean" bill, Senate Bill 13, after the character in Les Miserables, will increase the number of class C misdemeanors from three to four before a person can be charged with a felony. It passed the Senate by unanimous vote and will now go to the House for further consideration.
Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley, said his bill is based on best sentencing practice and the best method to get people not to reoffend.
Specifically it would change state code to make a third theft conviction within a 10-year period a class A misdemeanor, not a felony. Once a person has been convicted of a class A misdemeanor then the fourth offense can be charged as a felony.
The measure also calls for a third strike to be a felony, if the person has been previously convicted of a class A misdemeanor. It does not apply to people who already have felonies in their past.
The House co-sponsor of the bill is Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton.
Thatcher expects the measure to win easy approval in the House. He said the same bill was on the board ready for a vote, when the House closed its session last session.