October 9, 2013

You F***ing Felon

When, in his epic Outside essay, Patrick Symmes mentioned "the fiscal definition of felony, which varies by state but is typically under the thousand-dollar mark," I was curious: How much does this definition vary from state to state? How is felony theft defined in the District of Columbia, where I live? Did whoever stole my bike commit a felony in so doing?

Now Wikipedia usually comes through with precisely the list I'm looking for, be it a rundown of state nicknames or a catalog of animal collectives, but its "grand theft" article includes information about a paltry 11 states—and "needs attention from an expert in Law."   

So I did what any monomaniacal opponent of bike theft would do; I started running Google searches of the form "[insert state name here] felony theft."

Here's what I discovered:

  • The value stolen property must have for its theft to constitute a felony—what I've called "felony threshold" in the table below—varies from $200 (Virginia) to $2500 (Wisconsin).
  • Theft of some kinds of property qualifies as a felony regardless of actual monetary value: credit cards, firearms, and motor vehicles fall into this category in many states, but also prescription drugs (North Dakota); license plates (Ohio); cemetery decorations (Georgia); anhydrous ammonia (Idaho); and United States flags used for display, voter registration books, and original copies of court or historic documents (Missouri).
  • State statutes are complicated and confusing. (Lots of states, for instance, have done away with or muddled the misdemeanor/felony distinction, favoring instead lettered classes of crimes.)

While I can't—thanks to the third bullet point above—100% vouch for the information in the table below (though I have linked to my sources so you can investigate for yourselves—inform me of any errors you find), I do know this: Whoever took my bike is a felon. I mean, between the Cannondale Trail SL 29er 4 ($800+), the Continental Race King tires ($100), the stop-on-a-dime BB7s ($160), the Lizard Skins lock-on grips, the Topeak BeamRack, the Nite Ize spoke light... Makes me mad just thinking about it.  

Felony threshold
Felony threshold
Alabama $500 Montana
Alaska $500
Arizona Nevada
Arkansas $1000 New Hampshire
California $950 New Jersey $500
Colorado $2000 New Mexico $500
Connecticut $2000 New York $1000
Delaware $1500 North Carolina $1000
D.C. $1000 North Dakota $500
Florida $300 Ohio $1000
Georgia 500 (discretion) Oklahoma $500
Hawaii $300 Oregon $1000
Idaho $1000 Pennsylvania $2000
Illinois $500 Rhode Island $500
Indiana not based on value South Carolina $2000
Iowa $1000 South Dakota $1000
Kansas $1000 Tennessee $500
Kentucky $500 Texas $1500
Louisiana any crime that carries
sentence of death
or imprisonment
Utah $1500
Maine $1000? $5000?* Vermont $900
Maryland $1000 Virginia
Massachusetts $250 Washington $750
Michigan $1000 West Virginia $1000
Minnesota $1000 Wisconsin $2500
Mississippi $500 Wyoming $1000
Missouri $500

*Special thanks to Jeffrey Lovit for helping to clarify the details of theft law in the Pine Tree State. It seems that the threshold there remains at $1000 for the time being.

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