Virginia raises minimum threshold for felony theft charges

Virginia recently raised the threshold for felony theft to $500 from $200 for the first time since 1980.

Virginia has increased the minimum threshold at which theft can be considered a felony offense, according to WHSV 3 News. Previously, Virginia had been tied with New Jersey for having the lowest felony theft threshold in the country. The increase in the threshold, from $200 to $500, goes some way to ensuring that people convicted of relatively minor robberies do not end up spending long stints in prison or with life-long criminal records. The change went into effect July 1 and it is the first time the threshold has been raised since 1980.

Felony theft threshold raised

Previously, the threshold value of stolen goods at which theft is considered a felony rather than a misdemeanor was just $200. That level was set back in 1980 and Virginia and New Jersey were the only states with such a low felony threshold. The maximum penalty for being convicted of felony theft is 20 years, although such a long sentence is rarely handed down.

As of July 1, the felony threshold for theft has been raised to $500. That means theft under that amount will be treated as a misdemeanor, which is less serious than a felony and easier to remove from a criminal record. However, other factors, such as the suspect's age and previous convictions, can still have an effect on the seriousness of the theft charges being laid or potential penalties.

Threshold is still relatively low

As the Staunton News Leader reports, a 2016 study by the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission showed that, for fiscal years 2012 and 2013, there were close to 850 people charged with felony theft who would have otherwise been charged with misdemeanor theft had the threshold been set at $500 at the time. The median sentence of those who served time in jail or prison was more than a year.

A separate study also found that raising the felony threshold did not lead to an increase in property crimes or theft. The Pew Research Center study showed that states that raised the threshold saw the same decrease in thefts in 2017 as those that did not raise their thresholds.

In fact, even at $500, Virginia felony threshold is still very low compared with neighboring states. West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and the District of Columbia all set their felony theft thresholds at $1,000, while Maryland sets its threshold at $1,200. Only Kentucky has its threshold set at $500.

Criminal defense law

For those who have been charged with an offense in Virginia, it is important to talk to a criminal defense attorney immediately. Criminal charges need to be taken seriously as they could result in prison time, fines, and a record. An experienced attorney can assist clients with fighting back against any charges they are facing and help them uphold their rights.