CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Judiciary Interim Committee narrowly shot down an initial proposal to consider raising the monetary threshold for felony theft Tuesday in the first half of its two-day meeting.
Wyoming law qualifies a theft of $1,000 or more in replacement costs as a felony. Lawmakers considered drafting legislation to raise that threshold to $1,500, but the committee rejected the proposal by a 7-6 vote.
During the meeting, which was held virtually via the Wyoming Legislature’s YouTube channel, Wyoming Department of Corrections Director Bob Lampert told the committee that 19.6% of new prison intakes last year were for property-related crimes.
“Changing the felony threshold for property crimes could significantly impact the way we use prison beds in Wyoming,” Lampert said Tuesday.
The idea also got a boost from Rep. Scott Clem, R-Gillette, who doesn’t sit on the committee, but spoke on the possibility of raising the threshold. Since Wyoming last changed the threshold in 2004, Clem noted that amount is equal to $1,400 when adjusted for inflation.
Lawmakers, however, were left without much of an idea from anyone who testified on the effect of raising the threshold on the felony rates. Lampert, in response to a lawmaker’s question, said his staff would have to comb through each case to see who fell between the $1,000 and $1,500 range.
Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, who co-chairs the committee, voted against raising the threshold, pointing to the fact 13 states have felony thresholds lower than Wyoming currently on the books.
“There are real victims to these crimes,” Nethercott said, noting the wide range of fraud and embezzlement that qualifies as theft.
Members of the committee then rejected a motion to draft legislation raising the threshold by a 7-6 vote. Lawmakers also touched on a handful of other topics in the first committee meeting since the Wyoming Legislature concluded its special session Saturday.