In the Alabama Legislature’s 2019 regular session, bills aimed at reducing overcrowding in Alabama prisons would have increased Alabama’s felony shoplifting threshold by 300% or 400%.
Rep. Jim Hill, R-Moody, a former circuit judge in St. Clair County, introduced HB612, which would have taken the minimum amount of theft that would result a felony charge in Alabama from $500 to $2,000, a 300% increase that would have basically allowed shoplifters to steal four times more before they face any punishment of consequence.
Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, introduced similar sentencing legislation – SB325 – that would have increased the felony shoplifting threshold in Alabama by 400%. This bill would have increased the lowest degree of felony in Alabama from $500 to $2,500.
The average felony threshold in the 10 southeastern states is $880.20, according to Alabama Retail Association research.
Both bills were part of a bipartisan effort to keep Alabama’s prisons from being taken over by the federal government. Neither bill even received a committee hearing.
On May 16, legislative leaders indicated a special session by the first week of October is being considered to address prison reform, including sentencing reform. Gov. Kay Ivey, who is the only person who could call a special session, however, did not make any commitments. She said in a statement, “We will remain in constant communication with one another during the coming weeks and months to keep this issue on the front burner.”
Meanwhile, the Senate approved, but the House never considered legislation to create a separate shoplifting crime in Alabama and allow the police to arrest suspected shoplifters inside a store. Under Sen. Clyde Chambliss’ bill, which the Alabama Retail Association supported, the punishments, fines and felony threshold for shoplifting would have remained the same as they are under the current theft statute. Theft of $500 to $1,499 is a Class D felony in Alabama.
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