An Act Relative to Criminal Justice Reform – Part 2

This is the second post in a multi-post series where I will discuss some of the changes in the law that were a result of An Act Relative to Criminal Justice Reform. On April 13, 2018, Governor Charlie Baker signed An Act Relative to Criminal Justice Reform into law, signaling a major shift in the Massachusetts criminal justice system. One of the goals of this law was to update our criminal justice system. In doing so, several statutes were amended and others were created.

If you ask any of the thousands of criminal defense attorneys who practice in the Massachusetts District Courts – especially those who represent indigent defendants – what change in the law is likely to make the most impact for their clients, chances are they will say it is the change to the larceny statute.

Prior to An Act Relative to Criminal Justice Reform, if a person was charged with larceny, they were either charged with larceny over $250, which was a felony, or larceny under $250, which was a misdemeanor. In setting the level where the crime became a felony at $250, Massachusetts was one of the states with the lowest threshold in the country. This resulted in felony convictions for many people who stole items of little monetary value. Often times this low threshold was used by the prosecutor to force a plea, as the defendant would be presented with a “good deal” – plead guilty and receive a breakdown in the charges, or go to trial and risk a felony conviction.

Through the implementation of An Act Relative to Criminal Justice Reform, the threshold for a larceny to become a felony changed to $1,200.00. As a result of this change, people who are caught up in the criminal justice system due to a minor theft will no longer be facing a felony conviction. Not only will they not have to worry about the stigma of such a conviction, but they can now go to trial without the pressures of a “good deal” as often was the case prior to this change.