In the dystopian criminal justice netherworld that is New Orleans, stealing candy is no laughing matter.
After "career shoplifter" Jacobia Grimes was arrested in December for allegedly pocketing $31 worth of candy at a local store, the district attorney boosted the low-level theft to a full fledged felony charge that could put him behind bars for 20 years to life, the New Orleans Advocate reports.
Because of Grimes's previous crimes, he's considered a "quad offender" and Orleans Parish DA Leon Cannizzaro was able to charge him with the felony under the state's habitual offenders law, intended for people who have committed theft at least two times before. (Grimes has been convicted five times of theft, though each case centered on items valued at under $500.)
When Grimes appeared in court on Thursday to plead not guilty, even the judge was stunned.
"Isn't this a little over the top?" asked Criminal District Court Judge Franz Zibilich. He later added, "It's not even funny. Twenty years to life for a Snickers bar, or two or three or four."
Louisiana has long been known for having some of the harshest sentencing laws in America. The state has also been coping with a budget crisis in the public defender system that leaves some accused people without counsel.
Grimes is lucky enough to have a lawyer, but he's still in serious trouble.
Michael Kennedy, Grimes's attorney, said the 34-year-old is a heroin addict with a ninth-grade education. "It's unconscionably excessive to threaten someone with twenty years to life for candy," he argued.