The Felony Threshold Concern
By: David George, CFI, CFE, Managing Partner, The Calibration Group, LLC
To prevent prison overcrowding, felony thresholds have been rising over the last few years. This means that for shoplifters to be charged with a felony rather than a misdemeanor, a shoplifter must steal much more merchandise. For example, the State of California replaced their old petty crime law (PC 666) with what is called Prop 47. One of the many things Prop 47 did that concerns California retailers was that it raised the felony threshold to $950. This means that any shoplifter caught stealing less than $950 can only be charged with a misdemeanor. To put this into perspective, under the old version of PC 666, if a shoplifter had three or more prior convictions for certain theft crimes, then he or she could have potentially received a felony sentence of 16 months to 3 years in prison. However, Prop 47 stipulates that shoplifters can only be charged with misdemeanors regardless of how many prior theft convictions they have. (The only exception to this is if a suspect has a prior conviction of theft or embezzlement from an elderly person or dependent adult.)
To Loss prevention and Asset Protection (LP/AP) professionals, this essentially means shoplifters have a license to steal from California retailers with virtually no behavior-rectifying punishment. By charging the same shoplifters with a misdemeanor each time they are apprehended with no regard to criminal history there is nothing in place to inspire a chronic shoplifter to change their behavior. In the past, a shoplifter knew that after being convicted of petty theft a few times, they’d be facing a lengthy prison term if caught again. The absence of that stipulation, according to most California LP/AP professionals, has opened the flood gates of shoplifting, and they are feeling the pain.
But is California’s new felony threshold of $950 really that bad? Consider South Carolina, for instance. South Carolina already had a felony threshold of $1000 before raising it to $2000 in 2010. The question of, “Why did South Carolina increase the felony limit?” begs to be asked and answered.