The term larceny refers to a theft crime involving the unlawful taking and carrying away of property belonging to another person. In order for a person to be found guilty of larceny, the court must find that the accused person intended to permanently deprive the owner of the use of that property. The exact definition of larceny, sometimes referred to as theft or common theft, varies from state to state. However, larceny is generally classified as a misdemeanor charge, but in some cases may result in felony charges.
Misdemeanor crimes are those that are considered to be less serious in nature. It is more serious than a citation, but less serious than a felony. Most states distinguish misdemeanor crimes by their sentencing, as they are generally punishable by a fine not to exceed a specific amount and no more than one year spent in a county jail facility.
Misdemeanors are typically sorted into different classes, such as a Class A misdemeanor or a Class 1 misdemeanor. These classes are usually based on the seriousness of the crime. Unclassified misdemeanors are those that do not fit neatly into any one class.
Larceny as a misdemeanor can depend on various factors, most important of which being the amount of property stolen. Misdemeanor larceny often involves theft of property or money that is worth a minimal amount. Most states divide theft laws into two general categories, grand theft and petty theft. Theft of property that is worth over $500 is usually considered to be grand theft, while all other theft worth less than that number will typically be classified as petty theft. Although it varies, most states consider grand theft to be a felony, and petty theft to be a misdemeanor.
Misdemeanor larceny will usually result in legal penalties associated with any other misdemeanor charge. These punishments can be a mix of both jail time as well as criminal fines. Although it varies from state to state, jail time will usually carry a maximum sentence of one year spent in a county jail. Importantly, the imposed jail sentence may not be spent in state prison facility. Criminal fines for misdemeanor larceny are usually capped at $1,000.
The class of misdemeanor is associated with set penalties, in most cases. A typical penal code may call for the following penalties for each class of misdemeanor:
- Class A or 1 Misdemeanor: Up to one year in a county jail, and/or fines up to $2,500;
- Class B or 2 Misdemeanor: Up to six months in a county jail, and/or fines up to $1,000;
- Class C or 3 Misdemeanor: Up to three months in a county jail, and/or fines up to $500; and
- Class D or 4 Misdemeanor: Up to thirty days in a county jail, and/or fines up to $250.
Legal penalties for misdemeanor larceny may also include criminal restitution, which compensates the victim of a crime for any out of pocket expenses related to the crime. Restitution must be calculated with certainty, i.e. based on actual evidence, before it may be granted by a court. In larceny cases, the offender may be required to pay the full value of the stolen property. When deciding whether to award restitution, the judge will consider:
- The ability of the offender to pay restitution;
- If the offender will be serving any jail time;
- Whether the victim could have avoided the out of pocket expenses; and
- The type of crime committed.
Criminal restitution may be levied in addition to the standard sentencing, and is common in larceny cases that resulted in property damage.
Repeat offenders will usually find themselves facing higher misdemeanor penalties than a first time offender, for the same type of crime. Additionally, some states may specifically list a distinct punishment for a certain crime, even if the crime is classified in a set misdemeanor category.
As mentioned above, in order to be guilty of larceny, the accused must be found to have had criminal intent at the time of the theft. Therefore, if the defendant didn’t actually intend to permanently deprive the property’s owner of the property, or if the defendant mistakenly believed that the property was their own, they may not be found guilty of misdemeanor larceny.
Some of the most common defenses to misdemeanor crimes that may apply to misdemeanor larceny include:
- Lack of evidence;
- Coercion or duress;
- Permission or consent; and
- Self defense.
If you are being charged with misdemeanor larceny, it is in your best interests to consult with a well qualified and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney in your area. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand what your state considers to be larceny, as well as how your state classifies misdemeanor offenses.
Additionally, an attorney can also help you determine what legal defenses may be available to you given your specific circumstances, and advise you of your best course of legal action. Lastly, they can represent you in court at any necessary hearings.