The difference between a felony and a misdemeanor can be catastrophic for many people. A felony record has many collateral consequences that can be devastating for a person. Whether somebody is charged with a felony or a misdemeanor is key for negotiating certain deals in court and can help determine whether a defendant will want to take their case to trial or not.
Recently, the Massachusetts legislature passed an Act that made sweeping reform changes to many different criminal laws with key changes to property crimes. One noteworthy change is the threshold dollar amount for the difference of a felony and a misdemeanor with respect to certain property crimes. For the crimes of Larceny (M.G.L. c. 266, § 30), Misuse of Credit Cards (M.G.L. c. 266, §§ 37B and 37C), Receiving Stolen Property (M.G.L. c. 266, § 60) and Malicious or Wanton Destruction of Property (M.G.L. c. 266, § 127), the threshold felony amount for these crimes had been $250. The legislature recently changed this amount to $1,200.
The $250 amount for larceny crimes had not been changed since 1987. Only Virginia and New Jersey had a lower felony larceny threshold than Massachusetts. Meanwhile, more than 30 states have a felony threshold of over $1,000. There was a 2016 report by the Pew Research Center which found no effect on property crimes or larceny rates in 23 states that raised their thresholds between 2001 and 2011.
The crime of shoplifting (M.G.L. c. 266, § 30A) has also been amended to increase the threshold amount of $100 to $250. In addition, if the retail value of the goods is less than $250, the offense can only be punished as shoplifting, not larceny under $1,200.