View Our Practice Areas

Only $250 separates misdemeanor theft from felony

The laws in Massachusetts regarding misdemeanor vs. felony theft are quite different than in the rest of the United States. Nearly every state in the country has a dollar threshold for theft. Stealing property that is valued under the threshold is charged as a misdemeanor, while stealing property over that value is a felony. Massachusetts is the same as other states in this regard, but its threshold for felony theft is much lower than other states’. In our state, stealing property that is valued over $250 is considered a felony.

At first glance, this may sound like a high amount. Under closer scrutiny, however, it is quite low. There are only two other states in the country that have a lower felony threshold. Most states have a much higher limit—around $1,000. Some lawmakers have proposed setting a higher felony threshold for Massachusetts. Others warn against it.

The lawmakers who advocate for a higher felony limit contend that the current floor is outdated, unreasonably low and can disproportionately affect a defendant's life. Massachusetts’s felony theft threshold was put in place in 1987. The low value means that a theft of something as inconsequential as a video game, a winter coat or an expensive pair of sneakers could make someone a convicted felon. Criminal justice advocates point out that if an impoverished teenager were to make a poor choice and steal something over $250, he could be charged with a felony that would affect his life for years.

State lawmakers who oppose the bill argue that a higher limit would only encourage more theft at the misdemeanor level. Indeed, the Retailers Association of Massachusetts says that retailers across the state lose several million dollars a year because of stolen property. Last year, the state Senate considered a bill that would have raised the threshold to $1,500. The House recommended setting it to $1,000. Still other lawmakers have proposed a compromise that would set the floor at $750. Though the felony limit is a hotly debated issue throughout Massachusetts, its future is yet to be seen.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

You Have Questions? We Have Answers.

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy

Email Us For A Response

Anthony M. Salerno, P.C.
306 Main St.
Worcester, MA 01608

Phone: 508-795-1200
Fax: 508-795-1333
Worcester Law Office Map

Review Us
Connect With Us