Florida’s Felony Theft Threshold Shockingly Low in 2019
Florida is often celebrated as the quirkiest state in the nation. In what other state can you snap a photo with Mickey Mouse and find a gator lurking in your swimming pool? How many “Florida Man” headlines have been the source of your amusement? Many qualities make Florida unique; however, some of these traits put the state in a negative light. Among these is the fact that Florida’s felony theft threshold has not budged in over 30 years.
In 1986, Florida legislators raised the felony limit from $100 to $300 through the passage of Senate Bill 83. That value now stands at $750. The $750 threshold, which is the point at which a theft crime jumps from a misdemeanor to a felony, has not kept pace with inflation and continues to punish low-level offenders harshly, leading to crowded prisons and depleted funds.
Falling Behind the Rest of the Country
Florida is one of just two states that have not increased their thresholds in over a decade. Today, it has one of the lowest thresholds in the entire country, second only to New Jersey’s $200 felony theft threshold. Research by The Pew Charitable Trusts found that, in the 30 states that have raised felony theft thresholds between 2000 and 2012, downward trends in property crime and larceny rates continued. This means that, while some legislators may fear increasing the threshold will empower more criminals, their fears are unfounded.
All of Florida’s neighboring states, including Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, and South Carolina, have increased their felony theft thresholds in recent years to adjust for inflation and mitigate punitive punishments for low-level offenders. In Georgia, a felony theft threshold which was once $500 tripled to $1,500 in 2012. According to the data, the value of states’ felony theft thresholds does not correlate with the rates of property crime and larceny.
Why It’s Important to Raise the Felony Theft Threshold in 2019
All available research shows that, in the past ten years, no neighboring state that has increased the felony theft limit has seen an increase in property theft and larceny. In fact, some states have seen a decrease in the rates of these crimes. A low felony theft threshold unfairly punishes nonviolent offenders, sending them to prison for long periods. Their time in prison for a minor offense has many adverse effects.
Penalties in Florida for Third-Degree Grand Theft
There are many types and levels of theft offenses in Florida. Grand theft in the third-degree is the lowest felony grand theft offense. A person who steals an item worth at least $750 and up to, but not including, $20,000 may face a third-degree grand theft charge. If convicted, the offender may face the following:
- Up to 5 years in a state prison or 5 years of probation
- A fine of up to $5,000
The time offenders spend in prison for a relatively minor theft crime costs society far more than the dollar amount of what was allegedly stolen. Florida taxpayers pay about $35.6 million each year to house inmates, which works out to about $51.65 per day per inmate.
When these offenders leave prison, they walk out with felony records, which makes it difficult for them to become gainfully employed. While they are in prison, they often learn to become better criminals. Without a stable job, they may be more likely to reoffend, leading to a higher rate of recidivism, in turn costing taxpayers more money.
Consider this: $300 in 1985 would be worth $695.81 today, meaning that today’s offenders are being punished nearly as harshly as they would have been 33 years ago. Should the state felony theft threshold at least account for inflation?
Theft Defense Lawyers Fighting for a Better Future
The State of Florida is currently considering raising the felony theft threshold to catch up with the rest of the country; yet, if you were arrested for grand theft in Orlando recently, you could still face harsh penalties upon a conviction if there is evidence that you intentionally and unlawfully took property valued at between $750 and $20,000.
Don’t risk the felony conviction that may follow a grand theft charge. A conviction may lead to a period of incarceration, probation, fines, restitution, and a permanent criminal record that may make it more challenging to reintegrate into society. Contact a knowledgeable felony theft defense lawyer in Orlando to fight the charges against you.
At The Umansky Law Firm, our team of headstrong defense attorneys has over 100 years of combined experience defending felony charges throughout Central Florida. Call our office 24/7 for a free consultation or complete our contact form.