(BOSTON) – Senator Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville) and her colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate passed legislation raising the thresholds defining felony larceny and other property offenses from $250 to $1,500, putting Massachusetts in line with other states. The current larceny threshold has not been updated since 1987.
Under current law, stealing more than $250 is a felony, but less is a misdemeanor. So the theft of a full cart of groceries or a smartphone can leave someone with a felony offense for larceny on their record for years. In addition to covering larceny, the bill addresses felony thresholds for malicious destruction of property, credit card fraud, receiving stolen property, and shoplifting.
“We attach hundreds of collateral consequences that significantly limit employment and housing opportunities to those we label convicted felons,” said Senator Jehlen. “This label should be reserved for the most serious crimes. Changing the law lets us sanction those who break the law appropriately without allowing one transgression to derail a person’s entire future.”
The bill will not have a measurable impact on incarceration rates. Misdemeanor larceny currently carries a penalty of up to one year in the House of Correction, which is much more than most felony larcenies actually receive.
Currently, according to the FY13 Survey of Sentencing Practices, for those who are incarcerated at all, the mean sentence for larcenies between $250 and $10,000 is 6 months. Most larceny cases are resolved without conviction (that is by dismissal or CWOF) and of those that result in conviction, only roughly half involve incarceration.
The real impact of the bill will be in the post-conviction context. People have to wait much longer for felonies to age off their visible criminal record. Felonies cannot be sealed until 10 years have passed, but misdemeanors can be sealed in five and are not included in standard criminal record reports after five years.
The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration