Larceny Penalties and Sentencing (2023)

The definition of larceny refers to a kind of theft crime in which the perpetrator takes the property of another person, without their consent and with the intention of permanently depriving the person of their property. In criminal law, property is broadly defined and can be categorized as movable or immovable. Larceny involves the taking of property that can be carried away, e.g., personal property.

The legal elements of larceny are as follows:

  • The perpetrator takes and carries away;
  • Personal property that belongs to another person;
  • Without the other person’s consent;
  • The perpetrator has the intention of permanently depriving the owner of their property.

Larceny is generally understood to be a taking and carrying away of personal property without the use of force, duress or fear as opposed to robbery, which is taking or attempting to take a thing of value by force, threat of force or fear. So, the main difference between larceny versus robbery is the use of force or fear to accomplish the taking in the case of robbery.

Theft is any taking of property of another person without the person’s consent with the intent of depriving the person of the property. Both robbery and larceny are forms of theft. Theft is the categorical term for all crimes of taking property, both personal property and real property. Theft would include all forms of taking, whether it is done by the use of force or fear or through fraud or theft by deception. So larceny is a form of theft.

Some examples of personal property include cars and jewelry, while some examples of immovable property include real property, such as land and things attached to it. Documents, such as stock certificates, and personal services, such as repairs made to a person’s vehicle or restaurant service can also be included in the definition of property.

(Video) Penalties For Grand Larceny Charges

Importantly, every state has its own laws addressing the crimes of theft, larceny and robbery. However, almost every state will typically identify larceny as the unauthorized taking and carrying away of the tangible, personal property of another with the intent to permanently deprive that person of their property.

Are There Different Types of Larceny?

States define larceny differently and categorize degrees or types of larceny differently. Usually, however, larceny is categorized on the basis of the value of the property that is stolen. So larceny involving items with a higher value is “grand” larceny. “Petit” (or “petty”) larceny is larceny of items of lesser value. Each state decides which value separates grand larceny from petty larceny.

Most states also categorize larceny as felony larceny or misdemeanor larceny. The value of the property stolen may be one factor that determines whether a larceny is a felony or a misdemeanor. But the value of the property stolen is not the only factor. For example, in North Carolina, felony larceny includes the following:

  • The theft of goods valued at more than $1,000;
  • Theft of property from another person, no matter the value of that property;
  • Theft of property in connection to a burglary offense;
  • Theft of any explosive or incendiary device or substance, no matter the value, but not including fireworks, gasoline, butane gas, natural gas, or any explosive or incendiary properties that serve legitimate non-destructive and non-legal uses;
  • Theft of a firearm, no matter the value;
  • Theft of any record or paper in the custody of the North Carolina State Archives.

This list is not exhaustive. There are other theft offenses in North Carolina that are categorized as felony larceny. The point is that the nature of the property and the manner in which it is taken, as well as its value, can affect whether a larceny offense is a felony or a misdemeanor.

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What Are the Legal Penalties for Larceny?

As previously mentioned, larceny is generally considered to be a misdemeanor if the value of the property taken is below a certain threshold, e.g. $1,000. Misdemeanors are considered less serious than felonies and are usually punishable by fines and/or a sentence of less than one year in a county jail.

Importantly, misdemeanor sentences may not be served in a state prison, as prison sentences are generally meted out for felony crimes. Some kinds of larceny may be considered even less serious than a misdemeanor and could result in a citation or a fine, much like a speeding ticket.

As mentioned above, grand larceny punishments may be more serious than those for petty larceny. Grand larceny may be charged as a felony, under specific circumstances. The punishments for a felony can include a prison sentence of more than one year, and/or significant fines up to tens of thousands of dollars. The penalties can increase in proportion to the amount of property stolen.

Some states have created specific categories of felony larceny, for example, breaking the crime into degrees of felony larceny, such as:

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  • Larceny in the third degree for theft up to $5,000;
  • Larceny in the second degree for theft between $5,000-$50,000; and
  • Larceny in the first degree for theft above $50,000.

Aggravating factors are characteristics of the crime in question that make it worse, possibly more dangerous. In terms of larceny, more serious punishments may result if the following aggravating factors are present:

  • The perpetrator has prior convictions, so the offense is a repeat of previous crime;;
  • The act was committed for the purpose of advancing a more serious crime; or
  • A deadly weapon was used in the commission of the offense.

Some alternative sentencing options may be available to the perpetrator upon conviction of the crime, based on the specifics of their case. For example, completing a community service program as opposed to serving jail time or paying fines might be an alternative option. Alternative sentencing allows a person convicted of an offense to avoid some of the harsher, traditional penalties; it is commonly reserved for first time offenders, those convicted of petty offenses, and juvenile offenders.

Are There Any Defenses to Larceny Charges?

Every crime has specific elements that the prosecution must prove in order for the perpetrator to be found guilty. With larceny, the prosecution must prove not only the intent to commit the crime, but also the intent to permanently deprive the victim of their property. If they cannot prove this intent element, the perpetrator may be able to successfully argue that the prosecution has failed to satisfy their burden.

Other defenses to larceny charges may include:

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  • Intoxication: if the perpetrator can prove that they were intoxicated without their consent;
  • Duress: if the perpetrator can prove that they would face bodily harm or death from someone else if they did not commit the crime; or
  • Innocence by alibi: if there is a witness willing to testify of the perpetrator’s behalf. For example, a witness stating that they saw the perpetrator grocery shopping at the time the theft took place would give the perpetrator an alibi defense.

In addition to these defenses, a defendant can claim that they believed they were the true owner of the property they took. An example of this would be accidentally taking someone else’s laptop because it looked like your own. As explained above, the intent to carry away and permanently deprive someone of their property must be present in order to convict someone of larceny.

Therefore, if a defendant only took a laptop because they thought it was their property, they would lack the intent to permanently deprive someone of their property. Presumably, upon learning that it belongs to someone else, the defendant would return it. Another example of a lack of intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property taken would be a perpetrator charged with the theft of a cell phone who only borrowed the phone to make a call because they misplaced their own. If they willingly return it to its rightful owner, there is no larceny.

Do I Need an Attorney for Larceny Charges?

If you have been charged with larceny, you should consult with a skilled and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. An experienced criminal defense attorney can ensure that you understand your state’s specific laws regarding larceny and its degrees, they can also help determine if any defenses are available in your case.

Additionally, they will represent you in negotiations with the prosecution and in court at any necessary court hearings. You are most likely to get the best possible outcome if you have an experienced criminal defense attorney representing your interests.

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What is a sentence for larceny? ›

California Criminal Penalties for Grand Larceny

At the most, if convicted of misdemeanor grand larceny you will face up to one year in county jail. The penalties for felony grand theft are more severe, and include sixteen months, two years, or three years in prison.

How much time can you get for larceny in NC? ›

This is a Class H Felony, which carries up to 8 months in prison for a first time offender, but can be increased more depending on the circumstances of your case.

What is larceny charges in Texas? ›

Under Texas' penal code, a person commits larceny when they take property from another—both tangible and intangible property—with the intent to deprive the owner of the property. The most serious cases of larceny are punishable as first-degree felonies, carrying a fine of $200,000 or more and a prison sentence.

What class felony is larceny in NC? ›

Larceny as provided in subsection (b) of this section is a Class H felony. Receiving or possession of stolen goods as provided in subsection (c) of this section is a Class H felony.

What is the most common larceny? ›

Grabbing someone's purse with force is a common form of larceny.

Is larceny a felony? ›

There are two types of larceny: petit larceny and grand larceny. Although both are crimes, petit larceny is a misdemeanor, while grand larceny is a felony.

How much is felony larceny in NC? ›

When a person steals multiple items during one theft, the values of the stolen items can be added up and could result in a felony larceny charge if the property is worth more than $1,000. Some other larceny crimes in North Carolina include: Concealment of merchandise in a store.

Is larceny a felony or misdemeanor in NC? ›

(b) The crime of larceny is a felony, without regard to the value of the property in question, if the larceny is any of the following: (1) From the person.

What is a Class 3 misdemeanor larceny in NC? ›

Concealing merchandise in a store for purposes of shoplifting: Governed by N.C.G.S. 14-17.1. Concealing goods or merchandise that has not yet been purchased is a Class 3 misdemeanor. In addition, attempting to purchase goods after changing the price tag in an effort to pay less is a Class 3 misdemeanor.

What is petty larceny in Texas? ›

The lowest level of theft in Texas is “petty theft” or Class C misdemeanor theft. At this level, the value of the stolen item or service is estimated at less than $50, and conviction results in a fine less than $500 and no jail time.

What is the difference between theft and larceny? ›

Petty theft and grand larceny are basically the same offences. Both are defined as the unlawful taking and carrying away of the personal property of another person without their consent. The primary differences are the value, penalties, consequences, and reputation.

How much do you have to steal for it to be a felony in Texas? ›

Legal Definition of Theft Under Texas Law

For cases involving property theft valued below $2,500, the defendant would likely face misdemeanor charges. However, if the property is valued at $2,500 or above, you could face felony charges.

Can felony larceny be expunged in NC? ›

Expunging a Felony Conviction in NC

If you are charged with a felony in NC, you are eligible for a dismissal or a non-guilty verdict. However, if your case results in a conviction, the wait period depends on the charge and your age. Violent felony convictions are typically never eligible for expungement.

What is the punishment for misdemeanor larceny in NC? ›

Punishment After Conviction

In the worst case scenarios, upon conviction of a Level 1 Misdemeanor Larceny, a person without any criminal history could be facing anywhere from 1-60 days in jail. Someone with the worst criminal history could face up to 120 days in jail.

Is larceny the same as shoplifting in NC? ›

What's the Difference between Misdemeanor Larceny and Shoplifting? Larceny is a more serious charge and can carry more punishment than shoplifting. Also, to be found guilty of Larceny, the prosecutor must prove that you left the store with the merchandise.

What is a real life example of larceny? ›

Examples are thefts of bicycles, thefts of motor vehicle parts and accessories, shoplifting, pocket-picking, or the stealing of any property or article that is not taken by force and violence or by fraud.

What are two categories of larceny theft? ›

There are two types of larceny: petit larceny and grand larceny. Larceny is categorized by the value of the items stolen. Sentencing for a larceny conviction varies in proportion to these categories.

Why do people commit larceny? ›

Financial Problems. If you ask every retail theft attorney in West Palm Beach of the number reason people commit such crime, lack of money would be on the top of the list. Shoplifting often occurs when someone needs something but lacks financial aid.

What's the lowest felony you can get? ›

Class I felonies are the lowest in the class ranking.. This occurs if someone makes a threat to commit a crime that would result in the death, terror, serious injury, or serious physical property damage. However, a person can make a “threat” simply through innuendo and even body language.

Can you be charged with theft if the item is returned? ›

Unfortunately, returning a stolen item does not cancel out the intent to steal. While returning an item or asset shows remorse, you still stole the item to begin with which means you intended to break the law and proceeded to do so and keep the stolen item until you felt remorse.

How much money is considered a federal offense? ›

if you ask how much stolen money is regarded as a federal offense; it's crucial to understand how much money and property are involved in federal crimes. This means that penalties and jail sentences are feasible for any sum of at least $1000, regardless of whether it is real estate, public records, or other assets.

What is petty larceny in NC? ›

The theft of anything valued under $1,000 is described as petty larceny while anything over $1,000 is considered grand larceny. Offenses can be classified as misdemeanors or felony crimes.

What is larceny vs grand larceny? ›

In most jurisdictions, the distinction between petty larceny and grand larceny is the value of the property taken. The dollar amounts vary from state to state, but grand larceny is usually prosecuted as a felony, whereas petty larceny is typically a misdemeanor.

What is Class 1 misdemeanor larceny in NC? ›

Misdemeanor Larceny and Receiving Stolen Property in N.C.

With some exceptions, larceny of property valued at $1,000 or less is a Class 1 misdemeanor in North Carolina. The same penalty applies to knowing possession or receipt of stolen property worth $1,000 or less.

Is larceny a criminal case? ›

larceny, in criminal law, the trespassory taking and carrying away of personal goods from the possession of another with intent to steal. Larceny is one of the specific crimes included in the general category of theft. Historically, the property subject to larceny in common law consisted of tangible personal goods.

What are the elements of larceny in NC? ›

Larceny Definition in North Carolina
  • taking the property of another.
  • carrying it away.
  • without the owner's consent.
  • with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property.

What are the five elements of larceny? ›

Terms in this set (5)
  • Taking. Person has no right to possession.
  • Asportation. Carrying away.
  • Personal Property. Excludes land.
  • Another Person. crime against possession, one cannot commit larceny against goods he or she already possesses.
  • With Intent to Permanently Deprive.

What is considered a serious misdemeanor in NC? ›

Class A1 misdemeanors are the most serious misdemeanor crimes that you could be charged with. Examples in this classification include assault on a female, assault with a deadly weapon, child abuse, and sexual battery.

How many days of jail time can come with a Class 3 misdemeanor in NC? ›

Class 3 Misdemeanors

A person convicted of a Class 3 misdemeanor faces up to 20 days' jail time and a $200 fine. Examples of Class 3 misdemeanors include public intoxication, open container violation, and possession of a small amount of marijuana.

Does a Class 3 misdemeanor stay on your record NC? ›

A misdemeanor stays on your record for life unless you successfully petition for expungement. There is no preset “expiration date” for misdemeanor crimes. Even though misdemeanor offenses are less serious than felonies, they are still serious breaches in the eyes of the law.

How much can you steal without going to jail in Texas? ›

Theft is a Class C Misdemeanor if the property stolen is valued at less than $100 and carries a fine of no more than $500 and no jail time.

What happens if you steal from a store and get away? ›

Even if you successfully shoplift and exit the store without being caught, you can still be arrested. When there is missing inventory or if something distinctive is gone from the shelves, businesses may review security footage.

How long does a misdemeanor stay on your record in Texas? ›

Class C misdemeanors: 180 days. Class A and B misdemeanors: 1 year. Felonies: 3 years.

How do you detect larceny? ›

Larceny is often easier to detect than skimming because the stolen funds have already been captured in the accounting system and, therefore, leave an audit trail that can be discovered during reconciliations and cash audits.

Why is it called larceny? ›

Etymology. The word "larceny" is a late Middle English word, from the Anglo-Norman word larcin, "theft". Its probable Latin root is latrocinium, a derivative of latro, "robber" (originally mercenary).

Is shoplifting an example of larceny? ›

Shoplifting is a particular category of theft crimes that deals with larceny against a retail establishment, as opposed to larceny against a person.

What dollar amount is a felony in Texas? ›

However, theft becomes a state jail felony when the property is valued between $2,500 and $30,000, is a firearm, is an official ballot, or is valued below $2,500, but the defendant has already been convicted of theft two or more times.

What is the fine for theft under $100 in Texas? ›

Theft under $100 is a Class C Misdemeanor (punishable by a fine up to $500). Theft between $100 and $750 is a Class B Misdemeanor (punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $2000 fine).

What happens when you get caught stealing at Walmart in Texas? ›

Under the Texas theft statute, you can face charges ranging from a Class C misdemeanor to a felony of the first degree. The classification of your offense will depend on the monetary value of the merchandise and if you have a prior criminal record.

What is the longest sentence for theft? ›

What is the maximum sentence for theft? The maximum sentence for theft is seven years' custody. Find out more about the different types of sentence the courts can impose.

What is the highest sentence for theft? ›

For repeat offenders or those convicted of the most serious felony-theft offenses, prison sentences can range between several years to 20 years or more. Fines. Felony-theft convictions also bring with them the possibility of significant fines.

How is theft different from larceny? ›

When the terms “larceny” and “theft” are used as distinct crimes, larceny usually refers to the theft of physical items while theft includes all variations on stealing property from another person or entity.

What crime gives the least jail time? ›

The following offenses have a minimum sentence of one year;
  • Speeding to elude police.
  • Not stopping a boat when ordered by law enforcement to stop.
  • Illegally selling a handful to someone under 21 years of age.
  • Possession of an assault weapon.
  • Second-degree assault with a firearm.
  • Third-degree burglary with a firearm.
Mar 22, 2022

What are the 4 types of sentencing? ›

Types of sentences include probation, fines, short-term incarceration, suspended sentences, which only take effect if the convict fails to meet certain conditions, payment of restitution to the victim, community service, or drug and alcohol rehabilitation for minor crimes.

What is the lowest charge for theft? ›

The minimum type of theft charge is called, “Petty Larceny,” which means stealing something up to the value of $1,000. This frequently happens when people go places like departmental stores and take clothing, jewelry, or things of that nature.

How long do you go to jail for stealing? ›

To be convicted of Theft, a number of elements need to be proven- that a person dishonestly took property belonging to someone else with the intention of not returning it to its rightful owner. The maximum sentence in Theft cases is seven years' imprisonment.


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