Bill seeking to keep people out of prison by raising felony theft threshold passes House

As Kentucky works to reform its criminal justice system and lower prison populations, the state House passed a bill Thursday that would increase the felony theft threshold for the first time since the 1990s.

House Bill 424, sponsored by Rep. Ed Massey, would move Kentucky’s felony theft threshold from $500 to $1,000. Massey said the General Assembly has been working on criminal justice reform issues, including felony expungement, because of the rising cost of corrections in the state budget and the low workforce participation rates in the Commonwealth.

Massey noted that many convicted low-level felons have trouble finding employment because of their criminal record. The bill aims to remove barriers for some who have made mistakes.

Massey also said that Kentucky’s surrounding states have increased the felony threshold rate to at least $1,000 or more and stressed the importance of allowing Kentuckians to have a second chance. “One small mistake shouldn’t prevent you from finding meaningful employment for the rest of your life,” Massey said.

The bill passed with a floor amendment making changes to the bill by including language that states any theft of $1,000 or over would result in a Class D felony, a Class B misdemeanor for theft crimes under $500, and a Class A misdemeanor for theft between $500-$1,000. If an individual is charged with three Class A misdemeanors within five years, it would result in a felony.

The amended version of House Bill 424 now heads to the Senate for consideration in committee.

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