Jessica is a practicing attorney and has taught law and has a J.D. and LL.M.
Have you ever heard the term 'larceny' used in your favorite cop or law show and wondered what it meant? Maybe you see the TV characters lead a perpetrator into the police station bullpen and explain that he was caught stealing a laptop from an electronics store. His or her crime is larceny, which is synonymous with theft.
Larceny is typically defined as an unlawful taking of another individual's property with the intention to deprive the other person of the property on a permanent basis. Moreover, the owner of the property cannot have agreed to the taking. Thus, if one steals someone else's property and intends to keep it, this is larceny.
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Types of Larceny
Felony vs. Misdemeanor
Every jurisdiction has unique statutes to define types of larceny. Larceny can be a felony or a misdemeanor crime. A felony is a serious crime, typically with a one year or more prison sentence as well as fines imposed for the commission of the crime. Frequently, felony larceny is referred to as 'grand theft.'
Conversely, a larceny can be treated as a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is a crime which is considered less severe and usually includes imprisonment of one year or less when one is found guilty of the crime. Many jurisdictions assess whether a larceny constitutes a misdemeanor or felony based upon the amount of money or worth of the items which were taken.
Degree of the Crime
In addition, larceny crimes can be differentiated by the degree of the crime. Every jurisdiction has differing degrees of first, second, and third degree larceny. These degrees are usually distinguished by the value of the items taken, with first degree larceny representing the most significant amount of this value.
Grand vs. Petit
Other ways that larceny is distinguished is by a descriptive term. For instance, grand larceny is a term used by some jurisdictions to describe a theft of a substantial amount. Additionally and conversely, petit larceny is sometimes utilized to describe a theft of a smaller amount or smaller valued item.
Examples of Larceny
Larceny can arise in numerous ways. For instance, when a person shoplifts in a store, this action constitutes larceny. Other examples of larceny include the theft of artwork from a museum, a carefully orchestrated theft, theft of an automobile, and theft of a wallet by pickpocketing.
Defenses of Larceny
When one is charged with the crime of larceny, there may be a defense of larceny available to that individual. One frequently invoked defense is to assert that there is no intent to permanently deprive the other person of the property. Another defense is that one made a mistake when taking the property; in other words, the person charged did not realize the property was not their own. Finally, one can assert that the property owner consented to the taking of the property, and therefore, no crime of larceny exists.
The crime of larceny is one that differs by each jurisdiction. Every jurisdiction possesses a criminal statute that defines the crime, the degrees of the crime, and the penalties for committing larceny. Consequently, you must look to the individual jurisdiction for specific guidance.
Nevertheless, larceny in all jurisdictions includes the deprivation of another person's property with the intention to permanently deprive that person of the property. If these elements are fulfilled, larceny exists. However, some common defenses to larceny include the claims of not having the intent to permanently hold the property, making a mistake, and the consent of the owner.
Vocabulary & Definitions
Larceny is an unlawful taking of another individual's property with the intention to deprive the other person of the property on a permanent basis.
Felony is a serious crime, typically with a one year or more prison sentence as well as fines imposed for the commission of the crime.
Misdemeanor is a crime which is considered less severe and usually includes imprisonment of one year or less when one is found guilty of the crime.
Grand larceny is a theft of a substantial amount.
Petit larceny is a theft of a smaller amount or smaller valued item.
After viewing this lesson, you should be able to:
- Summarize the types of larceny
- Provide examples of larceny
- Describe the legal consequences for committing larceny
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What Is Larceny? - Definition, Types & Examples
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