What Is Larceny? - Definition, Types & Examples

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  • 0:03 Definition
  • 0:42 Types of Larceny
  • 1:59 Examples of Larceny
  • 2:16 Defenses of Larceny
  • 2:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Schubert

Jessica is a practicing attorney and has taught law and has a J.D. and LL.M.

In this lesson, you'll learn about the crime of larceny. You'll also review and examine the various types of larceny and learn how the value of the larceny action impacts the consequence of the crime.


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.

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.

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