Senate, House pass bills increasing penalties for catalytic converter thefts

By: - February 18, 2022 12:02 am

The Capitol at dusk. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly have passed bills aimed at deterring the rise in the theft of automotive catalytic converters, which are made of rare and valuable precious metals, including platinum.

SB 729 and HB 740 have slightly different approaches, though. The House bill, which was introduced by Del. Robert Bell, R-Albermarle, would make the theft a felony regardless of the converter’s value, whereas the Senate’s proposal– introduced by Sen. Frank Ruff, R-Mecklenburg – makes it a misdemeanor for someone to assist in the theft of a converter valued at less than $1,000.

Additionally, the two bills would also require that scrap metal buyers maintain records for two years that ensure the seller obtained the item legally. While the Senate bill would only cover catalytic converters, the House expands the coverage to parts of any vehicle, aircraft, boat or vessel.

A catalytic converter, an automotive device that cleans emissions. (NBC12)

Even though the bills passed their respective chambers last week, SB 729 rolled through unanimously before the midpoint of this year’s session, while the House had more difficulty approving the harsher proposal, passing with 69 votes.

“A lot more of these have been getting stolen than usual,” Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, said at a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting last week. “And even though a typical used catalytic converter coming off a car is worth less than $1,000, the cost associated with repairing the car is significant. Some people feel like we need to have increased penalties for this.”

Replacing the part responsible for filtering toxic emissions could cost as much as $2,500 without counting the costs of additional repairs if other parts of the car get damaged in the theft, which involves using a saw. Just last week, Richmond police arrested three men suspected of stealing converters, according to an ABC 8 News article.

The House bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee last Monday.

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Jackie Llanos Hernandez
Jackie Llanos Hernandez

Virginia Mercury intern Jackie Llanos Hernandez is a junior at the University of Richmond studying journalism and anthropology. Jackie grew up in Colombia before moving to Virginia. Jackie is also the investigative and multimedia editor at the independent student-run newspaper, The Collegian. She can be reached at [email protected]