Editorial: Raise threshold for felony in Florida

The $300 level for a felony has not been changed since 1986 and is the second-lowest in the country.
Published April 12

Should it be a felony to steal a pair of designer jeans and a top? Punishment should fit the crime, but that hasn’t been the case for felonies in Florida for a long time. The level for a felony offence — $300 — hasn’t changed since 1986. That’s the second-lowest amount in the nation, with many states around $1,000 or $1,500. Even law-and-order Texas sets the threshold at $2,500. This isn’t about condoning crime, but it makes sense to make the punishment — and the life-altering effects of a felony — proportional to the crime committed. Bipartisan bills making their way through the Florida Legislature acknowledge this reality, with the main difference a $1,000 threshold in the House version and $750 in the Senate. Progressives and conservative groups such as Americans for Prosperity, which is affiliated with billionaire Charles Koch, are both pushing for a threshold closer to $1,000 or above. Money not spent on prisons can be spent on less expensive rehabilitation. The Legislature should settle on a reasonable threshold.

One-day, one-park Disney pass

1986: $23

Today: Up to $159

In 1986, stealing 13 one-day Disney passes would not have been a felony.

Today, it could be a felony to steal two of them.

Air Jordan basketball shoes

1986: The original Air Jordan basketball shoes, released in 1985, cost $65.

Today: Air Jordan 3 Retro TH SP shoes sell for $225 a pair.

In 1986, stealing four pairs of original Air Jordans would not have been a felony.

Today, it could be a felony to walk out of a store without paying while wearing a pair and holding one shoe in your hand.

Sunglassses

1986: Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses cost about $50.

Now: A pair of Original Wayfarer Classics costs $203.

1986: Stealing six pairs of Ray-Bans would have been a felony.

Now: Steal two pairs, and it easily would be a felony.

Personal stereos

1986: A Sony Walkman cost $90.

Now: An Apple iPod Touch can cost $300.

1986: Stealing three Walkmen would not have been a felony.

Now: Stealing one iPod Touch would be a felony.

Jeans

1986: Guess designer jeans cost about $60.

Now: Guess Patched Slim Straight Jeans cost $228.

1986: Stealing five pairs of Guess designer jeans might have been a felony.

Now: Steal one pair and a shirt, and it could be a felony.

A bicycle

1986: A Bridgestone 600 racing bicycle cost $370.

Today: A Firmstrong Bella Fashionista Women’s 26-inch beach cruiser retails for $309.99.

In 1986, stealing a bicycle good enough to enter in a race would have been a felony — but not by that much.

Today, stealing a decent laid-back beach cruiser easily could be a felony.

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