Bill Description: House Bill 543 would increase the threshold for grand theft from $1,000 to $2,500.
Analyst Note: House Bill 543 follows a pattern seen recently in states such as California and New York, where penalties for theft and other property crimes are reduced, resulting in significant increases in the frequency and boldness of such crimes.
Does it violate the spirit or the letter of either the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution? Examples include restrictions on speech, public assembly, the press, privacy, private property, or firearms. Conversely, does it restore or uphold the protections guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution?
House Bill 543 amends Section 18-2407, Idaho Code, to reclassify "grand theft" as the unlawful taking of property with a value exceeding $2,500, rather than a value exceeding $1,000.
An exception would be created for a second offense within 7 years of a conviction of grand theft, where the $1,000 threshold would still apply. Realistically, this exception would only apply in cases where the grand theft was actually prosecuted as such and not pled down to petit theft, disturbing the peace, or some other charge.
By raising the threshold for grand theft from $1,000 to $2,500, a theft of property worth less than $2,500 would be considered petit theft, which carries a maximum fine of $1,000. It seems odd, to say the least, that the maximum fine for stealing could be well under half the value of the property stolen.
It is also worth noting that prosecutors often offer offenders plea deals, so even a theft of property above the statutory threshold for grand theft may not end up being prosecuted as such.
While criminal justice reform efforts that move away from prosecuting victimless crimes are positive, we must be careful not to devalue the lives and property of those who are victims of theft. Theft is not a victimless crime, and a loss of $2,500 in property, or even $1,000 in property, is not an insignificant infringement on the rights of a property owner.
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