Governor Signs Bill To Strengthen Crime Laws

JACKSON (WLOX) -- Governor Haley Barbour signed legislation Monday to strengthen the state's crime laws.

Senate Bill 2712, also known as "Miss Breland's Law," increases the prison term for criminals who use a credit card, bank draft, or other identifying information taken from its rightful owner by means of a violent crime or burglary. Under the new legislation, offenders can be sentenced to a prison term of five years, in addition to other penalties.

The law is named in honor of Irene Breland, a 99-year-old retired public school teacher from Jackson who was robbed and beaten in July 2006. She later died as a result of the violent crime in which offenders stole her purse and used her credit card.

"This legislation calls for tougher penalties for offenders who engage in identity theft, which is among the fastest growing types of crime in the nation," Governor Barbour said. "I am pleased to sign this bill, which falls in line with the efforts of my administration to curb violent crime and protect the safety of our citizens."

According to WLOX's sister station WLBT in Jackson, there have been no arrests in the crimes against Breland, although 22-year-old Chancellor Christmas is said to have made a jailhouse confession to the attack. Christmas was convicted of a separate attack on an elderly person, but authorities have not been able to positively link Christmas to the use of Breland's credit card.