House sends criminal-justice revamp to Senate

Reversing course from the past three years, the Florida House on Monday passed a criminal-justice package that would reduce punishment for some non-violent offenders and raise the legal threshold for felony theft charges.

Under the House measure (HB 7125), the state would increase the felony-theft threshold from $300 to $1,000, a proposal that has received pushback from powerful retailers over the years. The move would make it the first time since 1986 that Florida has changed its felony theft amount.

“We all know theft is wrong --- we all know this,” said Rep. Byron Donalds, a Naples Republican who for the past two years has tried to raise the threshold amount. “The question is, at what point are you going to be branded a felon for the rest of your life?” He added, “Because once you are a felon, there’s no coming back from that.”  

The package, sponsored by Judiciary Chairman Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, deals with a wide range of issues, from repealing mandatory minimum sentences for selling horse meat to broadening eligibility requirements for people who want to seal their criminal records if cases resulted in dismissal or acquittal.

The House bill now will go to the Senate, where a similar proposal has been on hold during the past week. Among other things, the Senate proposal would increase the felony-theft threshold to $750.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.