The crime of larceny involves taking someone’s personal property with the intent to deprive them of it. The term “larceny” is often used for crimes involving theft, stealing, or robbery, but it has its own unique definition in different states. The jurisdictions that use it as a separate crime also have separate punishments for larceny.
The word “larceny” may not be as familiar to you. It comes from the Anglo-Norman word “larcin” which means theft. That likely comes from the Latin word “latrocinium,” a derivative of “latro,” their historical and cultural word for a robber.
Larceny is a term in criminal law defined as taking someone else’s property with “the intent to deprive” them of it. The item is taken without permission for an unknown amount of time. You must have the intent to stop the owner from using the item. For example, the unlawful taking of an item you give back later is still larceny, theft, or stealing.
There are various synonyms some courts will use for a larceny charge, including stealing, petit larceny, petty larceny, simple larceny, theft, and petty theft.
These are generally considered minor crimes where a person’s property is taken, and does not apply to real estate. The taker’s intent is to permanently keep the item. Items are not taken directly from off a person and buildings are not broken into. Larceny does not involve violence, use of force, or threat of force.
It is helpful to understand what larceny is by understanding what it is not. It differs from the following crimes in these ways:
Simple larceny should be considered the most basic and least serious crime in this list. If there are other specifics to the crime, then there is likely another more specific charge that law enforcement will use.
Since it is typically a minor crime with low-value property taken, larceny crimes commonly happen to a few items. You might be charged for larceny for pick-pocketing or taking a bicycle, motor vehicle parts, car accessories, or other items above $500.
An arrest and conviction can change everything. Fines or time in jail are the immediate concern, but a conviction will also mean a criminal record that can make it harder to find a job and housing for years to come. If you are arrested or learn you are under investigation, the first thing you should do is contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. You can search LawInfo’s legal directory to find a local criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights and help you determine the best way to proceed with mounting a defense.