The severity of a charge of theft depends on the value of the property allegedly stolen. The property’s worth as expressed in dollars at which the charge becomes more serious than a misdemeanor is the felony theft threshold.
Louisiana is one of 37 states that has increased its felony theft threshold since the year 2000. Critics of the decision argued that it would cause an increase in thefts and property crime, but the data collected over the intervening 22 years have not borne that out.
Why have Louisiana and other states increased felony theft thresholds?
According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, Louisiana and other states have adjusted value-based penalties for inflation. The costs of goods and the value of the property have increased significantly over the last 30 or 40 years, and felony theft thresholds have increased to reflect that. Another reason for the change is that prison space is costly, and lawmakers want to prioritize it for more serious offenders.
What effect has increased felony theft thresholds had on crime rates?
Analysis shows no impact on rates of theft or crime overall in response to increased felony theft thresholds. From 1998 to 2015, rates of theft and other property crimes decreased throughout the United States, and the decline in the states that raised felony theft thresholds was comparable to that which occurred in the states that did not.
Does the dollar amount of the threshold make a difference?
Felony threshold rates around the country range from $500 to $2,000. However, the same study showed that there was no correlation between the threshold amount and the crime rate.
Research suggests that the fears about raising the felony theft threshold do not correspond to the actual effects.