In Florida, a person can be charged with felony theft for stealing anything valued at $300 or more. According to the Miami Herald, this is the second-lowest felony threshold in the country, well under Texas’s felony threshold of $2,500. Many claim this low amount simply leads to mass incarceration across the state. However, a powerful lobbying group claims the low amount is necessary to curtail retail crime rings.
The Florida Retail Federation has been the leading voice against raising the threshold any higher. A representative for the group claims that many repeat offenders steal smaller amounts from local retailers which add up over time. Over the course of five years, this group has donated more than $3 million political groups and committees dedicated to fighting the bills proposing a higher threshold. However, they’ve recently accepted a proposed $750 threshold, provided felony charges can be assessed if theft amounts total $750 over a period of 90 days. The current bill includes a time period of 48-hours.
Those in favor of raising the threshold to $750 or even higher claim that these figures match the retail environment of the world today. For instance, mobile devices are commonly priced at $1,000 or more, which means a person may receive a felony charge for even a first offense.
Some lawmakers believe that the state’s tax dollars would be better used for rehabilitation programs and other ventures than prison costs, especially for non-violent offenders convicted of what would otherwise be considered a petty theft. They also cite states with higher thresholds, illustrating there isn’t an increase in theft rates when compared to states with low thresholds.