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Key Takeaways:

  • Larceny is another term for theft, or taking of property without the owner's consent.
  • Larceny can be categorized as grand theft or petty theft, depending on the value and type of property.
  • For a first-time offense, you may be eligible for a diversion program to avoid a criminal theft charge on your record.

Larceny is a legal term for theft that involves the unlawful taking of property without the owner’s consent. Larceny was an offense under common law and is referred to as theft or larceny, depending on state law. In general, larceny is the theft of personal property, including money, cars, clothing, or jewelry.

The penalties for theft can include jail time and fines. The criminal sentence for larceny can depend on the type and value of the property and even the type of victim. Criminal laws vary by state. Consult with a larceny defense attorney in your state if you are in criminal trouble.

What Is Larceny?

Larceny is a legal term for theft. Generally, this involves taking the personal property of another. The word comes from English common law. Some states still use larceny in their criminal statutes, while others use theft. For example, petty theft is the same as petit larceny. Grand theft is grand larceny.

The statutes for the crime of larceny vary by state. In California, larceny is stealing, taking, carrying, leading, or driving away the personal property of another. In Vermont, larceny includes stealing money, goods, chattels (personal possessions), banknotes, bonds, and promissory notes.

What Are Other Theft Crimes?

Larceny is a type of theft crime. Other theft crimes include robbery, burglary, motor vehicle theft, embezzlement, or criminal fraud. Larceny is one of the most common property crimes.

According to FBI data, from 2021 to 2022, there were more than 5.6 million larceny thefts nationwide. The most common type of larceny involved taking property from a motor vehicle, including tools, bags, money, and electronics. Other types of larceny thefts included:

  • Shoplifting
  • Theft from a building
  • Theft of motor vehicle accessories
  • Bike theft
  • Purse snatching
  • Pick-pocketing
  • Theft from coin-operated machines
  • Vehicle theft

Is Shoplifting Considered Larceny?

Shoplifting is larceny that involves taking merchandise from a store without paying the full price. Employees can also commit shoplifting by using their position to make it easier to steal from the store without getting caught. The penalties for shoplifting generally depend on the value of the property taken.

What Is the Difference Between Grand Larceny and Petty Theft?

Larceny crimes can be categorized as grand or petty. Grand theft usually involves larceny of property over a certain value. Petty larceny (or petit larceny) usually consists of property theft under a certain amount. The difference between grand theft and petty theft may also depend on the type of property. Grand larceny may be a felony or misdemeanor, while petty larceny is generally a misdemeanor offense.

In some jurisdictions, statutes do not differentiate between grand and petty larceny. Instead, there are penalties on the category or class of crime.

In Texas, theft is appropriating property with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property without consent. The class of criminal charge depends on the value and type of property. The lowest class of offense for larceny in Texas is a Class C misdemeanor for theft of property less than $100. Theft of $2,500 of property or more is a state jail felony. Theft of property valued at $300,000 or more is a first-degree felony.

Felony larceny can also depend on the type of stolen property involved, including:

  • Theft from a person
  • Theft from a grave
  • A stolen firearm
  • Theft with prior theft convictions
  • Theft of an official election ballot

Motor Vehicle Grand Theft

Motor vehicle theft may be grand larceny or charged under a separate criminal statute. Car theft is generally a felony, regardless of the car’s value. Stealing an old car worth $500 and stealing a luxury sports vehicle could both be felony larceny in most states. Theft of a vehicle by force or threat of force may be carjacking, a much more severe criminal offense.

Can You Get Diversion for Larceny Charges?

Some petty larceny charges may be eligible for deferred prosecution. This allows you to avoid a criminal conviction if you complete a probation program. A diversion program requires you to stay out of criminal trouble, report to a probation officer, and be subject to drug testing. The benefit of diversion is that after you complete the program, the theft charge will not appear on your background check.

Eligibility for diversion is generally limited to non-violent petty theft for first-time offenders. If you are facing criminal charges for the first time, talk to your criminal defense lawyer about diversion programs or other jail alternatives. A clear criminal record can make getting a job and finding housing easier.

Criminal Defense Strategies for Theft Charges

Your attorney can review your case for defenses to criminal theft charges. Defenses include mistaken identity, lack of evidence, or evidence gathered in an unlawful search or seizure. Talk to your criminal defense attorney about the best criminal defense strategies for your case.

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