Massachusetts considers raising felony larceny threshold

Massachusetts state law treats larceny differently depending on the amount or the value that a defendant has allegedly stolen. The current distinction, as well as proposed changes to the law, are important to understand for anyone facing charges associated with this type of crime.

Currently, Massachusetts regards theft of $250 or less in property to be a misdemeanor. While still serious, a misdemeanor is generally more likely to be punished with probation, fines or some other consequences as opposed to jail time. Larceny of over $250, however, is a felony and therefore a defendant will face more serious consequences if accused of felony larceny.

The state legislature is now working through a number of proposals to change the threshold for felony larceny, possibly to as high as $1,500. The $250 threshold has not changed in 30 years. Today the alleged theft of a pair of shoes or a winter jacket could easily earn a defendant a felony conviction.

Besides the obvious consequences, a felony record can severely limit one's future job prospects. Prospective employers can search an applicant's history for felony convictions dating back 10 years, for example. The limit for misdemeanors is five years, meaning it will become invisible to employers almost twice as fast as a felony conviction.

Regardless of what happens with this law, defendants charged with larceny (felony or misdemeanor) can benefit from the assistance of a criminal defense professional in their case. Depending on the circumstances, a professional may be able to have serious charges reduced. Less serious charges may even be dismissed altogether with the correct legal strategy.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, "Felony or Misdemeanor? State May Change Larceny Laws," Bob Salsberg, Dec. 2, 2017

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