What Is Larceny?

by Team eLocal
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If your gnome-hating neighbor snatched your favorite garden statue from your yard, they've likely committed larceny. In other words, they've stolen your personal property with no intention of giving it back.

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But what exactly is larceny? Read on to learn more about larceny in the legal sense — including what kind of trouble your neighbor could get into for committing this type of crime, and how you can seek justice for your beloved gnome.

What Is the Legal Definition of Larceny?

Under common law, larceny is defined as deliberately taking tangible property from its owner without the use of physical force. It typically involves an item that isn't attached to the ground.

To be legally considered a larceny, a crime must meet the following criteria:

  • Removal: Larceny occurs when an individual or group unlawfully takes, obtains or asserts control over someone else's personal property. Typically, this involves moving the item from one place to another.
  • Consent: The taker may be charged with larceny if the owner hasn't given consent for the transfer of their property. However, it's important to note that items being repossessed don't need the owner's consent for removal.
  • Intent: For an event to be considered larceny, the taker must intend to permanently deprive the owner of the stolen property. Even if the item is subsequently returned, it doesn't negate the initial intent of the act.

However, the legal definition of larceny may vary by jurisdiction. For example, the theft of documents and records may be considered larceny in some areas but not in others.

In some places, larceny may also involve jointly owned property. This happens when one co-owner takes possession of the property, permanently depriving the other co-owners of the item or its use.

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What Are the Two Main Types of Larceny?

Larceny is typically categorized as either petty larceny or grand larceny, with the difference being monetary value. Petty larceny describes theft of low-value property, regardless of the type of item. Grand larceny describes the theft of higher-value property, such as a car. However, each state may define petty and grand larceny using different monetary thresholds, and sentencing for these crimes may vary accordingly.

Larceny Vs. Theft — What's the Difference?

People often use the terms “larceny” and “theft” interchangeably. However, depending on individual state laws, they may be considered distinct crimes. In places that make this distinction, larceny is the theft of tangible property, which is defined as items that can be physically carried away. The appropriation of other types of property is labeled general theft. This may include property that's related to:

  • Money
  • Services
  • Identity
  • Intellectual property

For example, in some places, embezzling money may be considered a general theft. In other areas, it may be considered larceny. Similar to larceny, theft is divided into petty theft and grand theft.

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Larceny Vs. Robbery — What's the Difference?

Larceny also differs from robbery. Although both acts involve the theft of physical property, only nonviolent crimes are considered larceny. To be defined as robbery, the theft of property must result from force or the threat of force.

What Are Some Examples of Larceny?

Larceny involves nonviolent acts where fraud is absent and breaking-and-entering hasn't occurred. Common examples of this type of crime include:

  • Car theft
  • Art theft
  • Bicycle theft
  • Shoplifting
  • Pick-pocketing
  • Purse-snatching
  • Theft of auto parts
  • Theft from vending machines

Is Larceny a Felony?

Felonies are more serious crimes that come with more severe potential penalties. A larceny may be considered a felony if the value of the stolen item is high enough. Threshold values for felonies vary depending on the state in which the crime occurs. If a larceny meets the threshold to be considered a felony, a conviction may result in imprisonment.

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