Constructive Larceny

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What Is "Constructive Larceny?"

In criminal law, the term “constructive” means “interpreted as”. Thus, constructive larceny is any action that is “interpreted as” larceny or theft. Constructive larceny generally occurs when a defendant gains rightful possession of an object, but their actions can later be interpreted as larceny depending on their intentions. In other words, it can be inferred from the person’s actions that they intended to steal the object once they had possession of it.   

What Is an Example of Constructive Larceny?

As an example, suppose that a person lends another person their computer. If the borrower intends to keep the computer instead of returning it, they may be charged with constructive larceny depending on their conduct. To prove constructive larceny, it would need to be shown that the person intended to keep the property permanently for their own use. 

In this case, if the borrower told their friend, “I’m never going to return this computer”, it could serve as evidence if a lawsuit is filed. Then if the person discarded their old computer once they received the borrowed one, a court might also interpret this as an intention to keep the computer as their own.

How Is Constructive Larceny Different from Normal Larceny?

With normal larceny or common theft, the defendant obtains possession of property through criminal means, usually by simply taking the property. On the other hand, with constructive larceny, the defendant may actually have the owner’s permission to possess the property. As mentioned, it’s the defendant’s intentions and conduct once they get hold of the property that will incriminate them as evidence.

Thus, constructive larceny is very similar to embezzlement, in that the person is granted legal possession of the object. However, embezzlement may sometimes require that the borrower is in a position of trust with the lender, such as an employer-employee relationship. 

What Are the Penalties for Constructive Larceny?

Penalties for constructive larceny will generally be similar to penalties for larceny or petty theft charges. Constructive larceny usually results in misdemeanor charges, punishable by small fines or a short time in jail (usually less than one year, and in a county facility rather than a federal prison).

However, if the constructive larceny involves large monetary amounts (such as over $5,000), it may be come a grand theft charge resulting in felony penalties like steep criminal fines and incarceration for at least one year in a federal prison facility. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Constructive Larceny Charges?

Constructive larceny is a somewhat unique type of theft charge that involves different types of proof than standard larceny. It can be tricky due to the fact that the theft is inferred from actions. You may wish to hire a qualified criminal defense attorney if you need help with constructive larceny charges. Your attorney can explain how the laws work, and can help represent you in court if you have been summoned for an appearance. 

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Last Modified: 05-02-2016 08:52 AM PDT

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