The Globe reports this morning that nine of the state’s eleven District Attorneys have penned a six-page letter to the State Senate largely opposing the Senate’s criminal justice reform bill that will be debated on Thursday.
The most newsworthy aspect of the story may be the lack of unanimity among the DA’s: Middlesex DA Marian Ryan and Northwestern DA David E. Sullivan declined to sign the letter, indicating a split among the state’s prosecutors. And the letter itself acknowledges that the DA’s who signed it differ among themselves on various points. (Whether a letter reflecting these many gradations of opinion can be said to be the “blistering public rebuke” the Globe claims it to be is worthy of contemplation — but the Globe’s job, it seems, is to peddle controversy to attract eyeballs. )
Let’s look at some of the arguments the letter makes. One change in the Senate bill is to increase the threshold at which larceny crosses over from a misdemeanor to a felony. Right now that threshold is $250, meaning that a person convicted of stealing a $299 Apple Watch will carry a criminal record noting that felony conviction for ten years. The Senate bill would increase the threshold to $1500 — larceny below that amount would be a misdemeanor, which appears on a criminal record for five years.
The District Attorneys who signed the letter are amenable to increasing the threshold amount (again — “blistering public rebuke” — really, Globe?), but believe that the $1500 amount in the Senate bill is too high. They recommend, instead, an increase to $750 and suggest that any amount above this would make Massachusetts an “outlier.”
So let’s look at what the current felony thresholds are in the other New England states:
Rhode Island: $1500
New Hampshire: $1000
So the DA’s position is that for Massachusetts to increase its threshold from the current $250 to $750, which would still be lower than any of the other New England states, would make it an “outlier.” Cue The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”