FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky has one of the lowest thresholds in the country for felony theft. House Bill 126 would raise the requirement from $500 to $1,000.

What You Need To Know

  •  House Judiciary Committee approves bill to raise the felony theft threshold
  • Bill would raise requirement from $500 to $1,000
  • Supporters say it will reduce the burden on the court system, acknowledge the rate of inflation since the last change
  • The bill nearly became law last year, clearing the House with a large amount of support from both Democrats and Republicans

Rep. Ed Massey (R-Hebron) sponsors the bill and says it’s been too long since Kentucky adjusted this law.

“We need to keep up with the valuation as things have increased in our society,” Massey said.

The House Judiciary Committee overwhelmingly approved the bill Wednesday.

Rep. Jason Nemes (R-Louisville) also supports it, pointing out that someone could spend five years in jail for stealing something worth just $500.

“No one should steal anything that’s $501. No one should steal anything that’s for a $1.50. But five years in prison for something that’s $500 seems to me to be excessive,” Nemes said.

Rep. Kevin Bratcher (R-Louisville) was the only person to vote against the measure in committee.

“I tell you what, I’m about done with criminal justice reform,” Bratcher said. “My area is having an explosion of petty theft.”

Rep. John Blanton (R-Salyersville), voted present on the bill, but he doesn’t like the idea.

“Many of the things I hear under the title of criminal justice reform, all I do is see us endangering citizenry and the effort to lower the number of people we have incarcerated,” Blanton said. “People are incarcerated because they’ve committed crimes, and simply wiping crimes off the book doesn’t make us safer.”

Massey says the bill doesn’t decriminalize theft.

“This does not mean that somebody gets any kind of a free pass. It doesn’t mean that at all,” Massey said. “There is still accountability under the law. You can still serve time in jail for a misdemeanor offense.”

Also under House Bill 126, if a person commits multiple thefts in 90 days, the value of those thefts would be combined, resulting in a felony if the total reaches $1,000. If a person commits three Class A misdemeanors in five years, the punishment would be enhanced to a Class D felony.

The bill nearly became law last year, clearing the House with a large amount of support from both Democrats and Republicans, but Massey says COVID-19 derailed it before it reached the Senate floor.

He believes this year it will become law.