Messages of Pat M. Neff, Governor of Texas to the thirty-seventh legislature Page: 26 of 36
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nal may, with a suspended sentence, go unpunished. What is there
sacred about an automobile that inspires the law to say that if you
steal an automobile you must go to the penitentiary, but you may
steal anything else you can get your hands on, and the law will permit
you, under the suspended sentence, to go free.
No sound reason can be offered to show why this particular offense
should be added, unless it is admitted that the suspended sentence
law stood in the way of and prevented effective enforcement of the
law prohibiting the stealing of automobiles. The fact that automobile
insurance companies who have studied the suspended sentence law
as it applies to automobiles, regarded the suspended sentence law as
being the most serious impediment to the enforcement of laws against
automobile theft, and in fact regarded the suspended sentence law as
an actual encouragement to the commission of the offense, was evidenced
by the fact that that organization appealed to the Legislature
to add to the list of offenses to which the suspended sentence would
not apply, the offense of theft of automobiles. What is true in regard
to the enforcement of the law against stealing automobiles is
true in regard to all other violations of the law. There is no doubt
that the suspended sentence law was and is a most serious impediment
in the way of the enforcement of the law.
It is scientifically wrong and contrary to a proper governmental
policy to characterize certain acts as felonies with all the solemnity
of the law, and then say to the prospective defendants that as a
special inducement to violate this particular statute we have just
enacted, we will permit you to have a suspended sentence. Many
criminals will take advantage of the invitation, and being successful
in the first one or two efforts made to violate the law, in that he
escapes punishment, he becomes a hardened criminal, when he would
not have in the first instance embarked upon his criminal career,
knowing that it would lead to certain punishment. The fact that the
law is fundamentally wrong cannot better be illustrated than by its
own terms, which provide that the suspended sentence law will not
apply to the crime of perjury, while at the same time a person
who commits the crime of false swearing may have his sentence suspended.
The law does not permit the suspension of a sentence in the
crime of the burglary of a private residence, while the burglary of a
store or a bank are within the purview of the law. The suspended
sentence law will not permit a person who steals an automobile to
have his sentence suspended, while a person who steals a horse or a
wagon or cattle may be the beneficiary of the law. These illustrations
could be multiplied. It thus appears that no valid reason can
be assigned why the law should single out certain offenses to which
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Neff, Pat M. Messages of Pat M. Neff, Governor of Texas to the thirty-seventh legislature, book, 1921; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth5871/m1/26/: accessed June 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .