Virginia is likely to raise the grand larceny threshold from $200 to $500 for the first time in over 30 years, no longer making it the lowest threshold in the country.
The bill introduced by the Republican Senator from Salem, David Suetterlein, reported out of the House Courts of Justice Committee unanimously and is now headed to the House of Delegates for a full vote.
In February, Gov. Ralph Northam and House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, reached a compromise on the grand larceny threshold. Raising the threshold to $1,000 was one of Northam’s top legislative priorities.
“Raising the felony larceny threshold will maintain Virginia’s tough position on criminal theft while modernizing our law so that one mistake does not define a person’s entire life,” said Northam.
The threshold has remained unchanged since 1980, and Virginia is tied with New Jersey for the lowest threshold in the United States. Many states like Maryland, Georgia and Delaware have raised their threshold to at least $1,000 to keep up with inflation.
The bill has died in years past, citing that the bill puts the well-being of thieves ahead that of the victims. The Pew Charitable Trusts found that raising the felony theft threshold has no impact on property crime or larceny rates. States that have risen their threshold reported the same average decrease in crime as the state that did not change their laws.
In 1980, people were lining up to see “The Empire Strikes Back” with a ticket they bought for a few dollars, and a gallon of milk was 86 cents. Now milk prices have almost tripled as have movie tickets, but the felony threshold remains the same.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index estimates $200 in 1980 is about $637 in 2018, adjusted for inflation.
While employers may not ask about misdemeanors charges, many job applications include a question asking the applicant if they’ve ever been convicted of a felony. For some, a mistake made as a young adult could make it difficult to find a job for the rest of their life.
“Taxpayers are not well-served when a young person who steals $200 sneakers becomes permanently labeled as a convicted felon,” said Suetterlein.
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