Easing state’s felony theft law faces Senate roadblock
Image via Colin Hackley.

FLAPOL102517CH068

It’s been 30 years since the Legislature last increased the amount a person has to steal  in order to face a felony theft charge and the bipartisan effort to do so this year could potentially hit a brick wall in the Senate.

The measure sponsored by Sen. Randolph Bracy has been moving ahead in the upper chamber since it was filed earlier this month. But on Thursday, as Judiciary Committee members voted to advance the bill to its last committee stop, there was notable no: Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto.

Benacquisto chairs the Rules Committee where the bill now heads to. It needs to clear that committee before it can get a full floor vote.

The proposed law would raise the amount a person can steal before they can go to prison. The state limit is currently $300, but Bracy wants to raise that $1,500 to keep pace with inflation and cut the prison population.

At least 3,300 people are currently incarcerated for felony theft convictions.

“This will save us money and help us focus on more serious crimes and not fill our prisons with minor theft convictions,” Bracy said.

The change would also better align Florida with 30 states, which have set a $1,000 or greater property value threshold for felony grand theft.

Opponents of the bill, including the Florida Retail Association, argue the measure would act as an incentive for delinquents to steal more from stores.

Sen. Audrey Gibson, who voted in favor of the measure, said she is not “trying to reward people for stealing,” but hopes it can deter juveniles from being entered into the criminal justice system.

The companion in the House is midway through its committee assignments.

Ana Ceballos

Ana covers politics and policy Before joining the News Service of Florida she wrote for the Naples Daily News and was the legislative relief reporter for The Associated Press and covered policy issues impacting immigration, the environment, criminal justice and social welfare in Florida. She holds a B.A. in journalism from San Diego State University. After graduating in 2014, she worked as a criminal justice reporter for the Monterey Herald and the Monterey County Weekly. She has also freelanced for The Washington Post at the U.S.-Mexico border covering crime in the border city of Tijuana, where she grew up. Ana is fluent in Spanish and has intermediate proficiency in Portuguese.


2 comments

  • Rev. Dr. Russell Meyer

    January 25, 2018 at 1:18 pm

    The Retail Federation is hysterical on this issue. A theft of a $300 item would still merit significant penalties, fine and jail time. The real question is: at what point do we destroy a person’s future by labeling them a felon? Does the federation really think a person’s future is only worth $300? Look at what that costs the rest of us in court and prison costs plus lost productivity in society. Texas has raised their limit to $2500; no one says they are encouraging crime. When this value was set, it was close to median monthly rent. Average rent in greater Miami is now over $1500. Updating the values makes sense. Time for the Florida Retail Federation to make sense too and join the movement for better smart justice.

  • Rev. Dr. Russell Meyer

    January 25, 2018 at 2:21 pm

    The Retail Federation is hysterical on this issue. A theft of a $300 item would still merit significant penalties, fine and jail time. The real question is: at what point do we destroy a person’s future by labeling them a felon? Does the federation really think a person’s future is only worth $300? Look at what that costs the rest of us in court and prison costs plus lost productivity in society. Texas has raised their limit to $2500; no one says they are encouraging crime. When this value was set, it was close to median monthly rent. Average rent in greater Miami is now over $1500. Updating the values makes sense. Time for the Florida Retail Federation to make sense too and join the movement for better smart justice.

Comments are closed.


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