Low-Tech Burglars to Get Lighter Sentences in Louisiana

This is the kind of law that annoys me:

A Senate bill to toughen penalties for crimes committed with the aid of Internet-generated “virtual maps,” including acts of terrorism, won quick approval Monday in the House.


Adley’s bill defines a “virtual street-level map” as one that is available on the Internet and can generate the location or picture of a home or building by entering the address of the structure or an individual’s name on a website.

Rep. Henry Burns, R-Haughton, who handled Adley’s bill on the House floor, said that if the map is used in an act of terrorism, the legislation requires a judge to impose an additional minimum sentence of at least 10 years onto the terrorist act.

If the map is used in the commission of a crime like burglary, Burns said, the bill calls for the addition of at least one year in jail to be added to the burglary sentence.

Crimes are crimes, regardless of the ancillary technology used to plan them.

Posted on May 28, 2010 at 6:24 AM59 Comments


Chris May 28, 2010 6:54 AM

I swear officer… I only used a fold out map!

Seriously, how will they know if a criminal uses a ‘virtual map’ on say a public computer. Maybe they buy a used laptop and use an open network somewhere then wipe their fingerprints from the laptop (being sure to clear the history) and stash it somewhere.

cassiel May 28, 2010 6:59 AM

Conversely, if I were to just stumble on a likely-looking house and burgle it, without the use of any kind of map, would I be entitled to a lighter sentence?

Tom May 28, 2010 7:07 AM

How are police going to know if the burgler used a “Virtual Map” if he doesn’t admit to it? They could subpoena google for search queries. Now they have the added work of that, plus combing through these queries.

Then, when they found that the man surfed for “suspicious terms” like “sodium explosion water” (did you know that? I didn’t until last week.) because he also happens to have a minor interest in chemistry; or “age of consent in united states” because his friend and him got in an argument… what happens?

I know it’s a bit of a stretch, but I don’t like where it’s headed.

freedomofeverything May 28, 2010 7:08 AM

Oh good lord.

Pardon that noise, it’s just me slapping myself in the forehead.

aikimark May 28, 2010 7:16 AM

Judge, that map was planted by the officer.

When maps are outlawed, only criminals will have maps.

Do maps now provide ‘probable cause’ for search and interrogation?

This spells doom for geo-caching on the bayou. 🙁

At least this legislative insanity is limited to Louisiana — for now.

What if this isn’t a map, but turn-by-turn directions?

Will this apply to GPS devices in the burglars’ cars?!?

Andre LePlume May 28, 2010 7:49 AM

I bet BP used plenty of computerized maps when they were looking for a drilling site.

Just sayin’

AppSec May 28, 2010 8:00 AM

@Andre LePlume
Thanks.. My laptop enjoys coffee.

I understand why this is kind of silly, but to a degree, it makes some assemblence of sense.

We are always talking about how the Internet makes things easier (IE: the whole concept of attacks from distance, numerous attacks of short bursts of times). We are also saying how it’s not safe to say note in Twitter/Facebook/whatever that you are going away.

So what this might is make the person who uses that information, doesn’t know exactly where you live, looks at these photos/maps to get a fell for the neighborhood layout — where trees are, etc.. There’s a stiffer penalty.

Silly? Probably be.. But… There’s a shred of thought behind it.

AppSec May 28, 2010 8:03 AM

And just to add:

Would you rather get a feel for a neighborhood’s hiding points by driving through it or by being remote?

Yes, there’s changes from last photos taken, but odds are you can get those differences in one drive through as opposed to having to make many to get a true feel for the place — not mention if you are out of state it makes it a bit easier..

kevinm May 28, 2010 8:06 AM

If you search on Google Maps for “Henry Burns, R-Haughton” and then click on the link “Representative Henry L. Burns” it provides a map and photo of an address. Perhaps he does not like that?

Mace Moneta May 28, 2010 8:17 AM

This is the same concept as ‘burglar tools’. A screwdriver is just a screwdriver, unless it’s used in a robbery.

I’ve heard that the average person commits three felonies during a typical weekend. As Ayn Rand said:

“There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.”

Joe May 28, 2010 8:18 AM

What disturbs me is the use of “terrorism”. Logically this is absurd because (a) there are next to no real terrorism crimes committed in LA, unless you count BP, and (b) adding 10 years to a terrorism related conviction is unlikely to be a very significant increase, unless LA has extraordinarily light sentences for terrorism without virtual maps.

This just fuels the public hysteria about “terrorism” which is really a colossal waste. More people die in alcohol-related traffic accidents every three months than in 9/11. But obviously we need more protection from terrorists.

Eric Thomas Black May 28, 2010 8:18 AM

Oh, no its the cops! Turn off the smart phone before they see the map.

Wonkette Reader May 28, 2010 8:20 AM

I’m glad Louisiana legislators have nothing better to do these days.

Mark R May 28, 2010 8:21 AM

Sounds to me like an excuse to go fishing on suspects’ computers when they’re arrested on some unrelated offense.

Conspiracy theory – the BSA/MPAA/RIAA are secretly behind this so they can crack down on pirated media & software!

Yeah, I know the old saw about not attributing to malice.

Thomas May 28, 2010 8:26 AM

Kids today will never use a camera with film, a phone with a cord, a music player with moving parts or a map printed on thinly sliced dead trees.

I guess they’re all up for harsher penalties.

Reminds me of a case a few years ago where a student ‘broke into’ his teachers PC to cheat on a test.
Somehow the fact that a (badly secured) PC was involved made it a heinous crime worthy of draconian punishment.

We fear that which we don’t understand.
The people who make (and pass) these laws have no clue about technology.

Burglar Joe May 28, 2010 8:37 AM

I am a burglar and I love Google Earth and Google Streetview. They make my job so much easier!

Louisiana Senator May 28, 2010 9:04 AM

Well, my constituency put me in this office to do something. This was definitely something, so I did it.

Really now, is this so hard to understand?

Hater May 28, 2010 9:12 AM

Don’t forget that if the burglar chooses the “wrong” victim(s), he could have his sentence similarly extended because now it’s a “hate crime”. Sentencing guidelines are wonderful…

paul May 28, 2010 9:17 AM

On the other hand, if a burglar uses online access to real estate assessment records and household demographics, that’s fine…

moo May 28, 2010 9:23 AM

@Hater: To play devil’s advocate… I have no problem with harsher sentences for things that actually ARE hate crimes. Targetting people for harassment, assault or other kinds of uncivil behaviour just because of their skin color is deplorable and does deserve stiffer penalties. The problem is that its sometimes very hard to tell what’s a hate crime and what isn’t, and thats dangerous because it can lead to large variations in charges and sentencing.

BCS May 28, 2010 9:38 AM

@moo, I’m anti hate crime laws, not because targeting people for the color of their skin isn’t deplorable, but because I can’t see any rational for having lighter penalties for someone who chooses there victim by some other metric.

Yes, maybe beating on someone because they are X needs stiffer penalties, but what does them being X have to do with it?

The More You Know May 28, 2010 9:43 AM

@Tom: ‘like “sodium explosion water” (did you know that? I didn’t until last week.)’

This is actually a more general principle, not just a feature of sodium. The Group 1 elements, called alkali metals, all react strongly to combine with the hydroxide ion, but do not “explode” as such.

Water, viewed as an ionic compound, is of course “hydrogen hydroxide”. In the presence of alkali metals, the “ionic bond” is broken in an exothermic reaction, leaving a spare hydrogen. If this additionally occurs in the presence of free oxygen, the high-temperature hydrogen gas is likely to energetically oxidize, i.e., “explode”.

Reactivity in Group 1 increases with atomic mass, so metallic hydrogen and lithium are more “tame”, whereas potassium and below are more reactive than sodium.

Also noteworthy is the other result of the reaction: an alkali hydroxide, which are generally highly caustic. Both sodium hydroxide (a.k.a. caustic soda, lye) and potassium hydroxide (a.k.a. caustic potash, potash lye) are dangerous, corrosive chemicals. The force of the hydrogen explosion can eject some quantity of the caustic base, which is potentially more dangerous than the explosion itself.

And now you know!

kashmarek May 28, 2010 9:53 AM

Legislative bodies pass laws that turn honest citizens into criminals. Those same legislative bodies have NEVER passed a law that turned criminals into honest citizens.

CGomez May 28, 2010 10:12 AM

Another useless law. A crime is a crime. It doesn’t matter how it is carried out. if you use one technique you get more time? That is ridiculous and frankly should be considered a constitutional problem.

“Identity theft” is just fraud, and should be prosecuted as such.

Mulder May 28, 2010 10:28 AM

The level of stupidity of Republicans and southerners in general never ceases to amaze me.

Chirol May 28, 2010 10:34 AM

re the Post: Agree. That’s why hate crimes legislation is BS too. Its discriminatory and unconstitutional as it punishes free speech.

Unix Ronin May 28, 2010 10:42 AM

What in nineteen purple iridescent hells is this piece of arrant nonsense supposed to accomplish?

Oh, right … “Being Seen To Do Something.” Even if it’s something COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY POINTLESS.

BobW May 28, 2010 10:43 AM


Careful, Democrats have passed laws about hate speech.

If it passes it will need votes from at least some Democrats. LA has equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats, plus 3 independents.

I’m against thoughtcrime laws in general. We cannot judge others’ souls, only their actions.

David Thomas May 28, 2010 10:56 AM


… as this law stiffens penalties when a crime is committed with certain features as opposed to other features, this law makes no honest citizens into criminals.

David Thomas May 28, 2010 10:58 AM

I would say it’s reasonable only to the degree that it shows premeditation, but shouldn’t be limited to digital technologies.

David May 28, 2010 11:04 AM

“Crimes are crimes, regardless of the ancillary technology used to plan them.” So are you opposed to laws that increase the severity of a crime if a gun is used?

dave marcus May 28, 2010 11:13 AM

Clearly unconstitutional in my opinion. how can there be any doubt that the second amendment to the Constitution of guarantees my right to use Google maps?

twh May 28, 2010 11:18 AM

You’re missing the point. We have enough laws – we don’t really need more.

New laws are passed not because they are expected to be effective, but so politicians can look like they are “doing something”.

Torus May 28, 2010 11:36 AM

Some laws are passed to make the politician and some constituents feel good; but the law has no real

effectiveness. This law fits into that category. From a security perspective it won’t prevent crime

or help law enforcement catch the bad guys more easily and the criminals will simply be just a bit more clever.

I too, like several posters above implied, have wondered why a criminal who is more effective or efficient in his craft gets a harsher sentence than the more cloddish ones.

jm2c, Torus

Joe Buck May 28, 2010 11:37 AM

The USSR used to consider accurate maps security risks (they could be used to plan attacks!), so they banned them.

buddy May 28, 2010 11:48 AM

I think they should just add 10 years to all the sentences whether or not they use a map

Wondering May 28, 2010 11:51 AM

Do you think this bill would have won such approval and quick passage if the phrase “including acts of terrorism” was absent from it?

The “terrorism” buzz-word is really driving a lot of irrational decision making in the last 9 years.

Beta May 28, 2010 12:10 PM

I too am opposed to mandatory sentencing based on what tool was used, because I can’t see any good reason for it, and to “hate crime” laws, because I don’t think guilt or sentencing should have anything to do with motive (notice I said “motive”, not “intention”). The fact that according to the letter of the law anyone can be punished for a “hate crime” does not redeem it in my eyes.

@David: “So are you opposed to laws that increase the severity of a crime if a gun is used?”

I am, but PLEASE let’s not bring gun politics into this.

Ross May 28, 2010 12:11 PM

@kashmarek : criminals into normal citizens.

Perhaps repealing prohibition counts as a rare exception?

Val May 28, 2010 12:49 PM

Re stiffer penalties for hate crimes:

The issue here is that when you kill someone randomly, or because you hate that specific person, you don’t victimize anyone else aside from the person killed and his family/friends.

When you kill someone because they’re black, or gay, or whatever else, you victimize all the people in that group, because now they’re all afraid for their lives, since there’s an idiot out there who is bent on killing/hurting them.

So if you commit a hate crime, there are more indirect victims. Hence the stiffer penalties.

Makes sense to me.

What I don’t get is the reasoning behind this virtual maps bill. If it’s to punish people who have an easier time committing the crime, maybe they need to create a system for measuring how easy it was to commit the crime and punish based on that. It would still be idiotic, but a bit less hypocritical, maybe?

Mulder May 28, 2010 12:54 PM


Actually, both Democrats and Republicans have passed laws regarding hate speech, which have been upheld by SCOTUS. Those that were struck down were mostly on college campuses, and for being overbroad or vague.

Still, it doesn’t negate the general stupidity of Republicans and southerners as a group. And since Congress has become so eager to pass all sorts of overbroad laws in their quest to turn everything into a more severe crime than it actually is, we now have them acting as the Thought Police for us. But who watches the watchers?

Mapquest May 28, 2010 1:29 PM

Maps on a CD-ROM or DVD-ROM look like they’d still be OK because they’re not Internet-based. I wonder if the bill’s author has ever used the Internet.

Possession of Internet maps will now be a crime like possession of lock picks, etc.?

First Timer May 28, 2010 1:31 PM


Two words: DC Sniper

Where I live we are currently dealing with a spate of gang-related killings, some of them involving random bystanders. Entire neighborhoods are victimized. To say a random killing only victimizes the family of the victim is ignoring reality.

A murder is a murder, and should be treated as such. Whatever thoughts happen to be in the muderer’s head at the time of the killing are irrelevant.

derf May 28, 2010 1:55 PM

Politicians obviously need something better to do with their time than invent new, stupid laws. Perhaps if we made their salary expire and require a re-vote every half-day we could be left alone?

vwm May 28, 2010 2:14 PM

Is “Driving under the influence” a criminal offence in LA?

Maybe, manufacturers of stand alone navigation systems (without network connectivity) lobbied for that bill?

Matt May 28, 2010 6:41 PM

Here in Tallahassee, Florida, the local newspaper has brought something to light about burglaries: even when they’re caught, they’re back on the job immediately–there’s a local meth addict with 60+ burglaries on her belt–the police are more interested in playing catch-and-release than in building actual cases. Her lawyer returns her stolen belongings to the local police department, who disburse it to the victims.

Beta May 28, 2010 8:40 PM

@Val, by that reasoning almost any motive or method should count. If I kill my spouse for having an affair, I’ve “victimized” all adulterers. If I kill someone else out of jealousy, I’ve “victimized” all desirable people. If I kill someone in an amusement park, or a train station, or an arena (*), or a library, I’ve “victimized” all those who frequent such places. If I kill someone in a certain urban block, suburban neighborhood or rural area, I’ve “victimized” all those who live there. If I kill a rich relative for an inheritance, I’ve “victimized” all rich people with heirs. Need I go on? Your explanation doesn’t hold water.

(*) I mean somewhere out of sight, like the lavatories, not on the green in front of cheering crowds.

verstapp May 28, 2010 9:04 PM

I can see cops carrying ‘throw down’ USB sticks pre-loaded with maps…

Craig May 30, 2010 1:24 PM

A lot of the time burglars aren’t that well organised and are usually oppurtunistic crimes, so suppose the additional years are for the premeditation and planning part?

Interesting to know how they come up with these numbers for the additional years for sentences

Bronson Alcott May 30, 2010 4:02 PM

Robert Adley, the rural legislator, who pushed this bill, has other notches in his belt. In the midst of the current BP oil spill, he proposed and fought hard (but unsuccessfully) for a bill which would shut down Tulane Law School’s Law Clinic, which has had success in representing indigent plaintiffs in suits against environmental polluters, in particular, chemical companies . The bill was supported by the Louisiana Chemical Association and the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, but opposed by the Louisiana Bar Association, and various civic groups.
The area along the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Baton Rouge is full of chemical plants, and has been called “Cancer Alley.”

travs90 June 1, 2010 1:48 PM

@David: So are you opposed to laws that increase the severity of a crime if a gun is used?


Tony June 2, 2010 10:08 AM

Oh brother!

Will they take off five years from the sentence if they use a GPS to make sure they hit the right target?

What if the car they drive there has built-in navigation? Will part of the trial be spent proving they intentionally used it to get to their location? And how about On-Star? Will they be held accountable for any assistance they offer?

Freemage June 2, 2010 6:32 PM

Hate-crime laws are poorly named and designed, unfortunately; the theory behind them is sound, but the process of getting them into law severely perverted them. For one thing, the WORST application of hate-crime penalties is the one most often cited in order to get people to agree to them: cases of murder, rape or severe violence (where the base crime is obviously heinous enough).

Where the laws make sense is in matters of “simple” property crimes meant to terrorize a specific population.

It’s illegal for me to present an individual with a plausible threat to their safety. If I burn a torch on the yard of a black family, I’m not just trespassing and committing arson; I’m also putting that family, and every other black family in the area, in fear of “what comes next”. The historical context of the action makes the threat clear and explicit. The same goes, for instance, if I paint swastikas on the wall of a synogogue–this is a threat, one far beyond that made by someone ‘tagging’ a garage door with their street-handle.

It’s in these cases where the hate-crimes sentencing modifiers make sense–there is harm done beyond the physical crime that would be poorly addressed by a broader increase in the sentence for the base action. In a murder case, the hate-crime laws tend to be irrelevant, and used mainly for political gain by the prosecutors.

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