SUCCESS! Raising the Felony Threshold
The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy believes that the Commonwealth of Virginia should raise its felony threshold. During the 2018 General Assembly session VICPP supported the modest effort that raised the threshold from the national low of $200 to $500; this legislative was approved and recently signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam.
VICPP supports eventually raising the threshold to $1,500 or $2,000 like surrounding states.
Having such a low felony threshold results in severe punishments for young people who steal sneakers, jackets or other tempting items. Although stealing needs to have consequences, Virginia shouldn’t destroy people’s lives in the process. Felony convictions can result in jail sentences as long as 12 years. With a recidivism rate of 82 percent, most of those entering the prison “system” stay for their whole lives. Although prosecutors seldom seek felony convictions for first small robbery offenses, the law still should be changed.
Raising the felony threshold does not increase theft. At least 12 states that have raised their threshold to $1,000 or more saw a decline in thefts.
Raising the threshold would save Virginia taxpayers millions annually. Larceny convictions accounted for one out of every four individuals incarcerated in 2012, at a cost of approximately $25,000 a year per individual.
Adjusting the threshold would help make communities safer. Virginia is expending valuable and limited resources prosecuting and incarcerating people for these low level felonies, resources that could be better directed to programs that keep communities safe.