Larceny is defined as the taking of personal property without consent from the owner with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property. Larceny is a general charge for theft, although larceny can be further broken down into charges of petty theft, grand theft, or other charges based on the value of the property that was taken and the other details of the crime. It is estimated that there were approximately six million larcenies committed in the United States in 2010.
Types of Larceny
Larceny is distinguished from certain other types of theft by the absence of violence or fraud to obtain the property. Although taking property by violence or fraud is still a crime, these acts will necessitate other charges, not larceny. Attempted larceny is also a crime.
Types of theft that are considered to be larceny include:
- Purse snatching
- Bicycle theft
- Automobile theft
Degrees of Larceny Charges
Charges for larceny are determined by the value of the property that was taken. These amounts may vary by state, but property that is taken that is worth thousands of dollars is typically considered grand larceny, which is a felony charge. Charges under the state limit for grand larceny are considered petit larceny, also called petit theft or petty theft, which is a misdemeanor charge in most cases. Within these classifications, the charge is further broken down by the value of the property. Larceny of property that is over one million dollars is usually considered first degree larceny.
In most cases of larceny, the defendant will be ordered to make restitution for the stolen property. In addition, the defendant will often be ordered to pay fines, and may face additional sentencing such as jail or prison time based on the property value and the jurisdiction. Community service may be ordered in some cases, as well. Juveniles that are charged with larceny are often ordered to attend classes about theft.
While misdemeanor larceny may not seem like a serious charge, the consequences may be more severe than the legal penalties. Most places of employment allow employees a certain degree of trust around company money and merchandise. Having a larceny charge may affect the company’s trust of an individual and therefore affect hiring and promotion decisions. Any larceny charge may also bar individuals from employment at most banks and financial institutions. Institutions may also question an individual’s character and be less likely to extend loans following a larceny charge.
To be considered larceny a charge must encompass certain elements. If any of these elements cannot be proven by prosecution, larceny charges may be dismissed. Prior to compiling information for a larceny defense, an attorney will typically look closely at the details of the incident and advise patients on the best defense based on a lack of correlation to one of more of the elements used to define larceny.
To be charged with larceny, all of the following elements must be present:
- Property must have been physically removed
- The property must belong to another person or entity
- The owner cannot have given consent
- The intention of the defendant must have been to permanently deprive the owner of the property
Ownership of Property
Based on the elements used to define larceny, the ownership of the property is often called into question. In many cases, an individual is accused of larceny after removing property that the individual believed he or she had full or partial ownership of. If this is the case, the defendant may be acquitted.
Intention of Defendant
The intention of the defendant is an important aspect of the defense. If the defendant mistakenly removed the property, as in the case of forgetting merchandise in a shopping cart, the intention of the defendant was not to deprive the owner of the property. If the intention is absent, the incident cannot be considered larceny. A defense based on the intention of the defendant may be difficult to prove, but a criminal defense lawyer will understand the best way to acquire evidence or testimony to support the defense.
“Larceny-Theft.” FBI. FBI, 26 July 2011. Web. 28 May 2014.
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“Statutes & Constitution: View Statutes: Online Sunshine.” Statutes & Constitution: View Statutes: Online Sunshine. The Florida Legislature, 27 May 2014. Web. 28 May 2014.
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