A bill that would raise the threshold at which a theft becomes a felony in Kentucky was approved by the House on Wednesday.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. C. Ed Massey (R-Hebron) would increase the felony threshold for theft and fraud offenses from $500 to $1,000 and changes the Class A misdemeanor level to $500 but less than $1,000.  A Class A misdemeanor carries a penalty of up to a year in jail, if convicted.

Written by Tom Latek of Kentucky Today

It also has an aggregation clause, where the penalty for three convictions of a Class A misdemeanor can become a Class D felony, which carries a one- to five-year prison sentence, if the convictions occur within a five-year period, and allows offenses that occur within 90 days to be aggregated into one offense, with punishment based on the total value.

During the debate, Massey said this is not a free pass for criminals.  “You can still serve up to a year in jail on a misdemeanor.  This is not meant to be a bill that reduces accountability; it is meant to be a bill that helps the system move along more expediently and with judicial efficiency.”

But Rep. John Blanton (R-Salyersville), a retired major with the Kentucky State Police, said he had problems with the bill. “We don’t want to find ourselves creating more victims in the name of an attempt to save money. With many of the things I hear under the title of criminal justice reform, all I see is us endangering the citizenry in the effort to lower the number of people we have incarcerated.”

While Blanton “passed” when the bill came up in the House Judiciary Committee, he voted against it on the floor.

The passage of the measure, 63-24, was welcomed by the Kentucky Smart on Crime Coalition.

“Texas has a threshold that is five times larger than ours,” said Mandy Simpson, Director of Public Policy for the Metro United Way of Kentucky on behalf of the Kentucky Smart on Crime Coalition.

“For even more context,” she said, “Georgia and Alabama’s thresholds stand at $1,500, with Tennessee’s at $1,000. Kentucky’s current system does not provide proportionate consequences for community members, especially as we work to address high incarceration rates and corrections costs impacting the wellbeing of Kentucky children and families.”

Simpson added: “Kentucky ranks third nationally for children who experience parental incarceration. The Commonwealth is imposing life-changing consequences on parents and children for what other states consider petty theft. Our coalition urges the full House to approve HB 126.”

The measure, House Bill 126, now heads to the Senate.

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Written by Tom Latek. Cross-posted from Kentucky Today.

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Kentucky Today is a full-service online news organization sponsored by the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Mark Maynard is the managing editor.

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