Copper Thief Strikes AT&T Lines, Interrupt Phone Service in Birmingham

Tags: Criminal Defense

A person who stole copper telephone wires caused phone service interruption to about 600 customers recently around Princeton Baptist Medical Center, The Birmingham News reports.

The theft of household items, including copper, aluminum, brass and bronze has increased nationwide, likely as a result of the increased value of these metals as well as the high unemployment rate, which is 10.2 percent in Jefferson County and 10.5 percent statewide, according to the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations.


Theft crimes in Birmingham are punishable as misdemeanors and felonies, depending on the facts of the particular case. And the difference between how the charge is filed can make the difference between possible jail time and long stays in a state prison. That’s why hiring an aggressive Birmingham Criminal Defense Attorney should be a defendant’s first action after arrest.

According to the newspaper, the wire was stolen in the alley behind 1232 Princeton Avenue and the repairs by the telephone company took nearly 15 hours. Officials say about 165 pounds of copper were stolen and AT&T officials have offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

While the theft of metal from homes or businesses can be profitable for the thieves, it can also be dangerous. In cases where transmission or communications are interrupted, a defendant may also face more serious criminal charges.

Therefore, when an arrest is made, it should be scrutinized by an experienced attorney. That’s because without catching someone in the act, prosecution and conviction become more difficult.  Without any physical evidence, prosecutors sometimes have difficulty securing convictions.

But even an arrest can lead to public ridicule and loss of employment and problems for the defendant. That’s why scrutinizing the case, starting with the police investigation, is the primary job of a client’s attorney.

In theft cases, especially burglaries and robberies, the state sometimes leans on co-defendants as the main witnesses in a case, which can be problematic for the state. These witnesses are paid by their freedom — or lessened prison sentence — and therefore have a lot to lose by not saying what the prosecution wants them to.

Even physical evidence can be challenged, such as how police obtained the evidence and whether they had probable cause to obtain it. Search warrants must be challenged as to the information police provided the judge to get them to allow police to riffle through the personal property of a person they consider a suspect.

In Alabama, there are different forms of theft and different penalties:

Theft of property in the first degree: Stealing more than $2,500 in value from another person or the theft of a vehicle. It can also be conspiring with another person to sell the items and the total value of items stolen over 180 days is $1,000. It is a Class B felony.

Theft of property in the second degree: Stealing more than $500 in property and less than $2,500. That can include stealing a credit or debit card, firearm and livestock. It is a Class C felony.

Theft of property in the third degree: Stealing less than $500 in property and it constitutes a Class A misdemeanor.

More Blog Entries:

Former Alabama Cheerleading Coach Charged with Theft, Ethics Violations: July 17, 2011

Additional Resources:

Service restored after Birmingham copper thief caper, by Carol Robinson, The Birmingham News

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