Penalties for Larceny

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What Is Larceny?

In criminal law, larceny is basically categorized as theft. It is defined as the “unauthorized taking and carrying away of the (tangible) personal property of another.” In addition, the defendant must have intended to permanently deprive the person of their property, at the time of the unauthorized act.

Each state may have different statutes addressing larceny, but they will generally include the elements listed above. Larceny is part of a broader category of crimes called theft crimes or property crimes; the category may include crimes such as robbery, shoplifting, carjacking, and other theft-related violations.

What Are the Legal Penalties for Larceny?

Larceny is usually classified as a misdemeanor offense. Misdemeanors like larceny are punishable by criminal fines and in some cases, a jail sentence of less than one year in a county jail. Certain types of thefts may be classified as a less serious offense, resulting only in a citation or a fine.

On the other hand, larceny can lead to more serious legal penalties under certain circumstances. For example, larceny can lead to felony charges or a higher misdemeanor classification. This can result in penalties like higher criminal fees and greater than one year in a federal prison facility. 

More serious penalties can result if the following “aggravating” factors are at issue:

If a weapon was used in the commission of the larceny, it will likely be classified as armed robbery, which is a serious offense.

Are There Any Defenses to Larceny Charges?

Some defenses may be available for a defendant who is facing larceny charges. These may include intoxication, duress, necessity, consent, and self-defense. The availability of such defenses will of course depend on the individual circumstasnces in each trial. Due to the complexity of raising such defenses, it’s usually necessary to work closely with a criminal lawyer during trial.

While technically not a defense, the defendant may also have some alternative sentencing options available to them. For example, instead of serving jail time or paying fees, it may be possible for the defendant to complete a community service program instead. This would allow them to avoid some of the harsher traditional penalties for larceny. Alternative sentencing is commonly reserved for less serious petty larceny cases, first-time offenders, and juveniles.

Do I Need a Lawyer If I am Facing Penalties for Larceny?

Larceny is one of the more common criminal charges, and generally requires the assistance of a lawyer. The advice and guidance of a lawyer is indispensable, especially if other factors are involved that could lead to stricter penalties. If you have any questions or legal disputes involving larceny, you should contact a lawyer immediately. Your attorney can help represent you in court, and can determine which defenses or alternatives may be available to you.

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Last Modified: 01-24-2014 11:18 AM PST

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