Cadiz Police Department Major Duncan Wiggins said that “drive-offs” could carry a stiff penalty. “The charge would be Theft by Unlawful Taking,” said Wiggins. “You can lose your license by doing this. The courts designate how long a motorist loses his license for.”
District Court Judge Jill Clark said that high gas prices could increase a misdemeanor charge to a felony. “If it is less than $300, then it is a class-a misdemeanor. The penalty would be up to one year in county jail and/or a $500 fine. Restitution is usually ordered as well. With gas prices being high, $300 could be reached with a truck. That penalty is one-to-five years in the state penitentiary.”
Perhaps the greatest deterrent to drive-off theft is the Kentucky law that revokes driving privilege.
Wiggins said that catching drive-offs depended on the cooperation of the service stations reporting the theft. “The only ones we can do anything about are the ones reported to us. Some stations do not report them. Some other times they call in with no vehicle description or direction of travel. Some stations have video surveillance. We can peg a suspect with video, then it is pretty much a done deal.”
Officer Scott Brown of the Cadiz Police Department said that the actual number of arrests made for drive-offs is low, despite frequent reports. “We usually arrest about five suspects or less per year. Usually, when we make a stop, we direct them to return to the store and pay. Most people cooperate.”
Brown added that mechanical problems are to blame some drive-offs, rather than larceny. “Some machines have a pay-at-the-pump feature. Someone may use their card and think they have paid, but the transaction did not go through. It is hard to prove intent in those cases, but we tell people to keep their receipts. If you did not get a receipt, it may have not gone through.”
For the rest of this story, read this week's Cadiz Record.