For the first time since 1980, Virginia has increased the monetary threshold for grand larceny, a felony offense that can carry a year or more of jail time.
Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, on Wednesday signed Sen. David Suetterlein’s Senate Bill 105, which raises the felony threshold for larceny and other property crimes from $200 to $500.
The law will take effect July 1.
“Taxpayers are not well-served when a young person who steals a $200 pair of sneakers becomes permanently labeled as a convicted felon,” said Suetterlein, a Republican from Roanoke County, in a statement.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index inflation calculator, $200 in January of 1980 had the same buying power as $637.19 in January of 2018.
In a statement on Twitter, Northam called the law part of a “commonsense criminal justice reform package.”
A bipartisan group of senators had pushed to get the law through for years but were unable to overcome opposition in the House of Delegates until this year, when Northam agreed to back Republican legislation ensuring court-ordered restitution is collected and is actually delivered to crime victims.
His predecessor, then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe, had vetoed a different restitution bill that would have limited his ability to restore felons' rights.
The restitution legislation by Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, allows judges to continue to monitor offenders to make sure they are making restitution payments. A judge may hold in contempt an offender who is able to make payments but refuses.
Another bill by Bell requires clerks of court to send any restitution for victims who cannot be found to the state’s Victim Compensation Fund, which will be staffed with two workers who will search for victims and help them get their money.
Restitution is mandatory in Virginia for a range of offenses, from killing or injuring police animals to larceny of timber, among many others. A 2016 report by the Virginia State Crime Commission found that “an enormous amount of restitution goes uncollected in Virginia.” As of Nov. 8, 2016, the total outstanding restitution owed to victims was nearly $407 million for all courts across Virginia, the report said.