The Florida State Capitol buildings (Old Capitol in foreground) in Tallahassee, Florida.
The Florida Chapter of Americans for Prosperity (AFP-FL) is calling on state lawmakers to raise the state’s felony-theft threshold from $300 to “at least $1,000” during its upcoming legislative session.
Newly appointed AFP-FL Director Skylar Zander said the justification for raising that monetary benchmark will be evident once legislators can analyze comprehensive statistics compiled through a new data-sharing law adopted last year.
Senate Bill 1392, a joint measure that passed the House and the Senate with one dissenting vote, requires counties to collect extensive criminal justice data and make it available in a publicly accessible database. It is the first law of its kind in the nation.
The bill is regarded as a “first step” in gathering evidence to support the creation of a task force to identify ways to reform the state’s $2.4 billion courts-correctional industrial complex, a criminal justice initiative that enjoys bipartisan support in Tallahassee as well as in Washington, D.C.
Forty-seven other states in the country have a felony theft threshold higher than Florida. The state last raised the felony threshold to $300 in 1986.
“We’re excited about that because it will allow legislators to get data and make decisions based on that data,” Zander told Florida Politics, noting the AFP-FL will work with an array of organizations from polar ideological spectrums, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
“Our focus over the next year is to ensure that we’re working with everyone to do good,” Zander said.
During last year’s legislative session, Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples, introduced House Bill 713, which would have raised the first-degree misdemeanor petty theft threshold from $100 to $500 and felony threshold from $300 to $1,000.
Donald’s bill also would have removed juvenile offenses from being considered as priors for petty theft as a third offense felony charge.
According to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), as of November 2017, $300 in 1986 would be worth $687.68 in January 2019.
HB 713 passed review by the House Judiciary Committee, Criminal Justice Subcommittee and Justice Appropriations Subcommittee but died in second reading on the House floor, never making it to the Senate for analysis.
According to an April 2017 Public Safety Performance Project report by Pew Charitable Trusts, since 2000, at least 37 states have raised their felony theft thresholds to prioritize prison space for more serious, violent offenders.
Pew examined crime trends in the 30 states that raised their felony theft thresholds between 2000 and 2012 to determine if there was data-supported validity to critics’ contention that elevating the money benchmark between misdemeanor and felony would encourage more property crime and larceny.
The study, published in 2016, determined raising the felony theft threshold had “no impact on overall property crime or larceny rates” and that states that elevated the benchmark “reported roughly the same average decrease in crime as the 20 states that did not change their theft laws.”
According to the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Reports, the overall U.S. property crime rate has declined by 39 percent and larceny rate has fallen by 35 percent since 1998
“The amount of a state’s felony theft threshold – whether it is $500, $1,000, $2,000, or more – is not correlated with its property crime and larceny rates,” Pew’s report states.