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. The crime 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 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, a charge may 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:

  • The act constitutes a repeat offense
  • The act was committed in furtherance of a more serious crime
  • Aggravating factors were present (such as the use of a deadly weapon)

If a weapon was used in the commission of the act, 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 circumstances 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. Alternative sentencing is commonly reserved for less serious petty cases, first-time offenders, and juveniles.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

As one of the more common criminal charges, it 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, you should contact a criminal lawyer immediately. Your attorney can help represent you in court, and can determine which defenses or alternatives may be available to you.