Stiffer penalties for crimes committed during home invasions

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Punishment may get stiffer when it comes to home invasion. State Representative Wendell Gilliard is proposing the death penalty for crimes committed during a home invasion resulting in bodily injuries or murder.

Lawmakers on both sides aren't taking home invasion crimes lightly.

Brittany Aigoro was shot to death during a home invasion in September, and Berkeley County deputies charged six people in relation to her murder.

A five-year-old girl and her father were shot after a home invasion in West Ashley. The Charleston County Sheriff's Office is searching for the suspect.

These headlines fuel the fire for Rep. Gilliard. He plans to prefile a bill in November that would allow for the death penalty to be sought for any crime committed during a home invasion.

"These thugs, they need a strong message and the message ought to be if you're going to take it upon yourself to make our children feel unsafe, our senior citizens feel unsafe, then there will be a great penalty you will have to pay, and that has to be with your life," Rep. Gilliard said.

Another home invasion bill was introduced in the state Senate last January. Under that bill, penalties range from 20 years to life in prison. Sen. Chip Campsen is one of four sponsors.

"A home invasion is more pernicious more egregious and therefore it warrants a higher penalty, and that's what the home invasion act does," Sen. Campsen said.

He also wants to make it possible for prosecutors to seek the death penalty, for the criminals convicted of murder during a home invasion.

"A home invasion would become an aggravating circumstance in a murder trial. An aggravating circumstance meaning a fact or factor a jury takes into account in determining whether to give the death penalty or not," Sen. Campsen said.

Currently most home invasion crimes are prosecuted under the state's burglary statute.

Rep. Gilliard has another home invasion bill that is currently in a house committee, which he hopes will also be under consideration in the upcoming year. It's similar to the bill introduced by Sen. Campsen.

Lawmakers say for a crime to be considered a home invasion, there must be the intent to injure and cause physical harm.

A home owner who is a victim of a home invasion can use lethal force against an offender and would be protected by law under the Castle Doctrine.

Copyright wcsc 2011. All rights reserved.