Va. governor signs law to double grand larceny threshold

Updated: Mar. 4, 2020 at 9:33 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WHSV) — The felony larceny threshold in Virginia has officially been doubled, with the change taking effect this summer.

Governor Ralph Northam signed House Bill 995, identical to SB 788, into law on Wednesday, March 4.

The bill was designed to raise the threshold for a charge of felony larceny in Virginia from $500 to $1,000.

The House of Delegates voted 58-40 to approve SB 788, which first passed the Senate on a 26-14 vote in February.

Those votes were nearly identical to those for HB 995.

“While we will continue to hold people accountable for their actions, it’s important that the punishment fit the crime,” said Governor Northam. “This bill will bring Virginia in line with the majority of states in our country, modernizing our law to ensure that one mistake does not define a person’s entire life.”

The summary of the bill states it "increases from $500 to $1,000 the threshold amount of money taken or value of goods or chattel taken at which the crime rises from petit larceny to grand larceny. The bill increases the threshold by the same amount for the classification of certain property crimes."

It was just two years ago that Virginia increased the felony theft threshold from $200, which was tied for the lowest in the country at that time, up to $500.

That 2018 move was pushed by Governor Ralph Northam, but he had initially aimed to raise it to $1,000. Republicans agreed to a $500 limit in exchange for Northam's support of legislation overhauling the state's criminal restitution system. With that deal in place, the bill ultimately passed the Virginia Senate nearly unanimously after a similar one was voted down the year before.

But now, with Democrats controlling both sides of the Virginia statehouse for the first time in decades, Northam included a move to raise the threshold to $1,000, like he wanted two years ago, as part of his criminal justice reform agenda for 2020.

Dr. Nancy Insco told WHSV that raising the threshold could be a good step for reform, but she said she'd like to see changes to how misdemeanor thefts stack to felonies, because she said she's seen people in the community receive serious sentences for being convicted of three relatively small thefts.

Republicans said the measure is misguided and that criminals do not need a cost of living adjustment. But Democrats said the threshold needed updating because of the cost of goods and because they say the charge too often saddles young people caught stealing with felony records.

Thirty-five other states and Washington, D.C. have felony thresholds at or above $1,000.

The law will take effect on July 1, 2020.


The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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