A New Orleans man with a lengthy record could be facing 20 years to life in prison after being accused of stealing $31 worth of candy.

While to some it may seem like a small crime the punishment could be king size.

34-year-old Jacobia Grimes was arrested last December for stealing candy from a Dollar General on S. Claiborne Street.

Under the multiple offender law in Louisiana, he could serve anywhere from 20 years to life in prison.

Grimes' lawyer, Michael Kennedy tells Eyewitness News criminal justice reform is needed in Louisiana.

"I'm not saying that is an easy job but we can't wind up in situations where someone is facing 20 to life for a pocket full of candy," he said."

Attorney Miles Swanson said the laws don't leave the sentencing to the judges, but rather District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's office.

"They can hang the multiple bill over him and control how much time he is going to do and the judge has no say," Swanson said. "It takes all the power out of the judges hand and puts it into the District Attorney's hand."

The District Attorney's office can't comment on an open case, but we know that all of Grimes' left cases have been for $500 or less. He is out on a $5000 bond.

Jail records show Grimes has 10 separate offenses against him dating back to 2001, most for theft.

According to the Cannizzaro's office, he could have been serving a 20 year to life sentence for his last conviction, but was only sentenced to four.

Eyewitness News Legal Analyst Donald "Chick" Foret said this case is more complicated than pocketing a few sweets.

"This deals with the incarceration rates," Foret explained. "The economic costs of incarceration and someone who is addicted to drugs, what do you do with them?"

Cannizzaro said the city has repeatedly denied his requests to fund a diversion program. As a result, he said his office must choose between putting offenders like Grimes back on the street without any rehabilitation or putting them in jail.

A hearing on Grimes' case is set for Tuesday morning.

You can read more about this story on The New Orleans Advocate.