In general, larceny is a type of theft crime that can be described as the unlawful taking and carrying away of personal property that belongs to someone else. The thief must have also taken and carried away the personal property in question without the owner’s consent or permission. They must also have had the intent to permanently deprive the owner of their personal property. While these elements offer a basic description, the exact definition of larceny will vary by state.
Larceny is also typically charged as a misdemeanor offense. However, if certain circumstances are present during the commission of this crime, then the severity of the offense will increase to that of a felony. For example, if you intend to permanently deprive another individual of their personal property and use a deadly weapon or force to take and carry away that property. This would constitute an act of felony larceny.
Misdemeanor offenses are considered to be less serious than felony offenses. This means that felonies usually result in harsher penalties than those issued for standard misdemeanor crimes. In fact, many state statutes will not fine a convicted defendant more than $1,000 for commission of misdemeanor larceny and also will not sentence them to longer than a year in a county jail.
Similar to how misdemeanor larceny can be converted into a felony offense, many states will classify misdemeanor larceny in accordance with different degrees or classes. The class or degree that an act of misdemeanor larceny falls under may depend on the value of property being stolen as well as on the kind of theft that occurred.
To learn more about the criminal activities that may qualify as misdemeanor larceny in your state, you should contact a local criminal defense attorney for further legal advice.
What Are Some Legal Penalties for Misdemeanor Larceny?
The legal penalties that one can receive for being convicted of committing misdemeanor larceny will depend on a number of factors, such as the circumstances surrounding a criminal case and the laws enacted in the jurisdiction where the offense was carried out. The majority of misdemeanor larceny offenses tend to result in criminal fines, a jail sentence of no longer than a year, or a combination of both.
It should be noted, however, that the legal penalties issued for misdemeanor larceny will differ in accordance with individual state laws. Thus, some states may cap criminal fines at $1,000, while other states may impose extra fees when certain conditions are present. For instance, the class or degree of misdemeanor larceny that a defendant committed will affect the type of punishment they receive.
Consider the following penalties issued for each class of misdemeanor in a standard penal code:
- Class A misdemeanor or misdemeanor in the first degree: Misdemeanor larceny that is categorized as a class A misdemeanor or a misdemeanor in the first degree is the most serious level of these offenses. A defendant who is convicted on such charges can face up to a year in county jail, fines of up to $2,500 and more, or both.
- Class B misdemeanor or misdemeanor in the second degree: A class B misdemeanor or a misdemeanor in the second degree is considered to be less serious than the criminal offenses that fall into the class A or first degree misdemeanor category. A sentence for this type of crime may involve fines of up to $1,000, a six-month jail sentence, or both.
- Class C misdemeanor or misdemeanor in the third degree: A class C misdemeanor or a misdemeanor in the third degree is even less serious than those offenses labeled as class B or second degree misdemeanors. The punishment for this level of misdemeanor larceny is a fine amounting to no more than $500, three months in a county jail facility, or both.
- Class D misdemeanor or misdemeanor in the fourth degree: The last and final category that is commonly found in most states is that of the class D misdemeanor or a misdemeanor in the fourth degree. In such instances, a convicted defendant can receive up to thirty days in jail, fines for $250, and/or both.
Another legal penalty that may be issued to a defendant who is convicted of committing misdemeanor larceny may include criminal restitution. Briefly, criminal restitution is a form of punishment in criminal cases that involves compensating a victim for any injuries they suffered as a result of the defendant’s actions.
This can include economic damages, such as those that came out of the victim’s own pocket to pay for costs associated with the defendant’s conduct. In addition, criminal restitution may be imposed on top of a standard criminal sentence. This form of legal penalty is most often found in larceny cases where damage was done to the rightful owner’s property.
Since restitution must be calculated in accordance with the actual evidence, a defendant may be ordered to pay the exact amount of the stolen or damaged property. However, the total costs must be proven first before a court grants a victim criminal restitution.
When determining whether or not to award restitution in a criminal case, a judge will consider someone of the following factors:
- Whether the offender will be serving a jail or prison sentence in connection with a misdemeanor larceny crime;
- The type and nature of the criminal offense;
- Whether the victim could have avoided the expenses that they paid for out of pocket; or
- The defendant’s financial capacity to pay criminal restitution.
Some states may also have designated criminal statutes that contain an explicit list of legal penalties that a defendant can receive when they are convicted of the particular misdemeanor crime provided for in the state statute.
Finally, defendants who are deemed to be repeat offenders, will typically find themselves facing stricter misdemeanor penalties than defendants who are first-time offenders. This is true even if a first-time and repeat offender are charged with the same sort of misdemeanor larceny offense.
Are There Any Defenses to Misdemeanor Larceny?
In order to be found guilty of criminal charges involving misdemeanor larceny, a defendant must have had the criminal intent to permanently deprive an individual of their property at the time they committed the theft. As such, if a defendant did not intend to permanently deprive a person of their property, then they cannot be convicted on misdemeanor larceny charges.
A defendant also cannot be convicted of committing misdemeanor larceny if they mistakenly believed that they owned the property that they walked away with and supposedly stole from another person. Intent is one of the elements of proof that must be satisfied when attempting to demonstrate that a defendant committed this crime.
Given that the fact that acts of larceny are typically considered to be specific intent crimes, a defendant may argue that the prosecution failed to demonstrate that they had the sort of intent required to commit this crime as a legal defense. This type of defense may be referred to as a “lack of evidence” or as a “lack of proof” defense.
Another type of legal defense that a defendant may be able to raise against the charges is known as “involuntary intoxication.” Briefly, involuntary intoxication is when a person secretly gets a defendant to ingest liquor, medication, drugs, and/or any other substances that would likely impair the defendant’s actions or judgment. The key to this defense is that the defendant must have consumed the substance either unknowingly or against their free will.
Depending on the facts of a case, a defendant may be able to claim that they lacked the sort of intent needed to permanently deprive someone of their property due to being involuntarily intoxicated. Therefore, the defendant did not commit a misdemeanor larceny offense.
Similar to involuntary intoxication, a defendant can claim that they were under duress or coerced by another party to engage in the crime of misdemeanor larceny. For example, if a party said they would hurt the defendant’s dog unless they stole the book from the person sitting next to them.
One other important legal defense is that of permission or consent. If a defendant had the permission of or consent from the owner to take or use their property, then this will be a complete bar to the crime of misdemeanor larceny.
Do I Need an Attorney if I’m Facing Misdemeanor Larceny Charges?
If you have been arrested and charged with committing the crime of misdemeanor larceny, then it may be in your best interest to contact a local criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
A well-qualified and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney will be able to explain the meaning and the consequences of misdemeanor larceny crimes under the relevant statutes in your state. Your attorney can also discuss how your state classifies misdemeanor larceny offenses.
In addition, your attorney can determine if there are any legal defenses you can use to defend yourself against misdemeanor larceny charges. Your attorney can also inform you of your legal rights and protections as a criminal defendant in your state. Lastly, if you need to appear in court, your attorney can provide legal representation during any legal proceedings that are connected to your misdemeanor larceny case.