Changes to Virginia's Larceny Law Could Be on the Docket Next Month

Dec 27, 2016

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Virginia’s Secretary of Public Safety – a former prosecutor – wants legislators to change the laws on shoplifting.  Virginia charges people with a felony if they steal anything valued at more than $200.  That’s the lowest of any state in the nation, but as Sandy Hausman reports, this could be the year when the General Assembly votes to raise the so-called larceny threshold.

Since 2001, at least 30 states have raised the value of stolen goods that triggers a charge of grand larceny. Virginia’s Secretary of Public Safety says a conviction on that charge – a felony --  can have very serious consequences.

“A felony follows you for the rest of your life.  Job opportunities, educational opportunities, college, scholarships, it all goes by the wayside.”

Brian Moran and his boss, Governor Terry McAuliffe, want Virginia to raise the larceny threshold from $200 to $500.  Past efforts have been blocked by lobbyists for the state’s retail merchants, but at the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, Director Claire Gastenaga says stores are wrong to assume a change will increase shoplifting.

“The fact is that Maryland, DC, North Carolina, West Virginia all have thresholds of a thousand dollars or more.  Texas raised theirs over $1,500," explains Gastenaga.  "Not a single one of those states shows any increase in shoplifting or larceny.”

She and Moran agree this could be the year when Virginia finally makes a change, with bi-partisan support for an increase spurred by a desire to reduce the state’s prison population, It’s costing taxpayers, on average, $28,000 per inmate per year.