By: Jesse Davis West October 15, 2018

How much do you have to steal in each state for it to be considered a felony? Every state in the U.S. has a specific numeric felony threshold. If you’re caught stealing goods in that state that are valued higher than this number, the crime instantly becomes a felony. Felony thresholds vary greatly across the nation and sometimes the results are surprising, in New Jersey the threshold is only $200 while in a law and order state like Texas, the current threshold is high at $2,500.  

Since the year 2000, at least 37 states have raised their minimum felony threshold. Some states, such as Alabama, have raised the threshold multiple times. Advocates in favor of raising felony thresholds cite overcrowded prisons and stress a desire for rehabilitation rather than incarceration for nonviolent offenders. One political blogger from Virginia stated that, after being convicted of a felony, “people who could be productive, contributing members of society are instead ostracized and pushed back into the costly criminal justice system.” 

That being said, some in the retail community believe that raising felony thresholds is tantamount to asking criminals to steal more. “Anytime you increase that threshold, I think it sends a terrible signal,” stated Rob Karr, president and CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association. We’ve spoken to plenty of loss prevention leaders who agree with him. The consensus among retailers seems to be that criminals are keenly aware of felony thresholds and endeavor to steal just below the amount that would get them incarcerated if caught. According to the National Retail Federation, higher felony thresholds also result in smaller thefts going unreported.  

The question remains: what is the right amount to set for felony thresholds? Should someone really be incarcerated and potentially lose their right to vote for stealing $200-$300 worth of goods? By the same token, if thresholds are raised too much is it crippling to small businesses? 

Here’s a breakdown of current felony thresholds by state as of 2018:

State $200-$500 $650-$1000 $1,200 – $2500 
Alabama    X 
Alaska   X  
Arizona   X  
Arkansas   X  
California   X  
Colorado    X 
Connecticut    X 
Delaware    X 
Florida  X   
Georgia    X 
Hawaii   X  
Idaho   X  
Illinois X   
Indiana   X  
Iowa   X  
Kansas    X 
Kentucky  X   
Louisiana   X  
Maine   X  
Maryland    X 
Massachusetts    X 
Michigan   X  
Minnesota   X  
Mississippi   X  
Missouri   X  
Montana   X 
Nebraska    X 
Nevada   X  
New Hampshire   X  
New Jersey  X   
New Mexico  X   
New York   X  
North Carolina   X  
North Dakota   X  
Ohio   X  
Oklahoma   X  
Oregon   X  
Pennsylvania   X 
Rhode Island   X  
South Carolina    X 
South Dakota   X  
Tennessee   X  
Texas    X 
Utah    X 
Vermont   X  
Virginia  X   
Washington   X  
West Virginia   X  
Wisconsin    X 
Wyoming  X  

If history sets the precedent, thresholds will continue to be raised across the United States. Retailers therefore need to not just be staffed up to prevent increasing losses, but they’ll need to invest in technology that can affectively prevent external shrink. Facial recognition can identify known retail criminals the moment they enter stores and instantly alert loss prevention professionals. As a result, retailers can proactively prevent crime and reduce external shrink by more than 30%.