What does inflation have to do with criminal charging outcomes?

The answer to the above-posed question in today’s blog post headline can be quickly and emphatically supplied by many California prison inmates.

It is this: Inflation can tack on years of additional lock-up time for a criminal offender, especially one charged with a property crime such as theft or vandalism.

A recent Washington Post article illustrates that reality with this hypothetical applicable to the laws of one state. That state set a threshold value of $200 decades ago for a theft offense deemed a felony. In other words, a person stealing property worth less than that amount would be charged with a misdemeanor offense. If, say, a stolen television set was valued at the $200 mark, a felony charge would apply, bringing a comparatively harsher criminal outcome.

What if — as has been the case in many states — the value denoted to distinguish misdemeanors from felonies remains the same for many years?

The result is the aforementioned inflation. Two-hundred bucks in 1980 was a big deal. It is a rather trifling amount these days. Still, a person convicted of a $200 theft in 2018 in a state that never revised its law to account for inflation could end up behind bars for years as a convicted felon.

For the record, and as noted in a recent national article, California is one of a majority of states that have adjusted theft-linked felony standards in recent years to bring about greater fairness. State officials upped the felony threshold from $400 to $950 in 2010.

That was several years ago. Is it now time to revisit the issue once again?

Charging matters are critically important in a criminal case, with close involvement from legal counsel often helping to secure best-case outcomes for clients squared off against prosecutors. An experienced criminal defense attorney can provide further information.

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