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Larceny

*This article is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice.

Sometimes, the court system uses familiar language in unfamiliar ways. Even if the general public understands the terms that are being used by legal representatives, the full meaning of those terms may be lost due to the context in which they’re being used.

Such is the case for terms like “larceny.” While crime shows make the general public somewhat familiar with terms like this, those shows fail to highlight the complexities of such terms.

If you’re reading a PeopleFinders criminal records report and you see the term “larceny,” make sure you take the context of the term into account. If you don’t, you may misunderstand the data with which you’ve been presented.

What is Larceny?

The terms larceny and theft are often used as synonyms. Both involve the taking of another person’s property. However, larceny is defined as the taking of another person’s property without the use of force.

If we break larceny down into its primary elements, it looks like this: the illegal taking and removing of someone else’s property from their person or home without that person’s consent. The defendant in question must have intentionally meant to deprive the victim of their property.

Note that “property” here can mean a physical object or money.

What Are the Stages of Larceny?

As mentioned in the above definition, larceny occurs in four stages. These stages are:

  • Unlawful Removal – When a person removes an object, property, or money from another on lawful grounds, they are not committing larceny. For example, a bank’s repossession of someone’s home after they’ve failed to pay their mortgage is not larceny and is legal in the eyes of state and federal government. However, a person who steals someone else’s vehicle has unlawfully removed that property from the possession of the other person and has, in turn, committed larceny. (In this case, grand larceny. More on that below.)
  • Someone Else’s Property – Someone who is accused of committing larceny must have taken something from another person that the other person explicitly owns. Larceny cannot occur when someone is taking something they lent to another person. That said, two people who co-own an item can commit larceny if one party attempts to deny the other access to that property.
  • Without the Owner’s Consent – If the owner of the aforementioned property gives another person consent to remove that property from their person or home, then no larceny has been committed. This makes in-person theft harder to assess, as many victims of would-be larceny permit another person to remove property from them to preserve their own safety. Herein lies another factor, though – larceny is only larceny if it is committed without the threat of harm. As such, anyone who freely gives another person consent to remove a piece of their property from them without the motivation of harm has rendered themselves unable to accuse that other person of larceny in court.
  • Intent – The person removing property from someone else must also intentionally move to prevent that other person from accessing their property. If the accused claims that they intended to return the property to its original owner, and they can prove that their intentions were good, they cannot be accused of larceny.

What Are the Degrees of Larceny?

Larceny can be broken down into two different degrees: grand and petit. Grand larceny describes larceny in which items of significant value were removed from another person. This can include land, a home or expensive objects. Larceny petit involves the removal of an item of lesser value from the possession of another person.

Each state will have a different understanding of what can be classified as grand larceny and what should be considered larceny petit.

How Does the Number of Larcenies Contribute to a Defendant’s Judgment?

The term “larceny” describes the act of removing a single piece of property from someone else’s possession without causing that person harm. As such, if a person removes multiple pieces of property from another person’s possession, they can be accused of multiple counts of larceny.

How the defendant is charged upon taking multiple times from another person will depend on the state. Some states will specify a multi-faceted theft as only one case of larceny, whereas others will apply a new charge of larceny for every item that has been stolen.

Note that it is not the number of larceny charges that transforms a petit case into a grand one, but rather the value of the items that were removed from the victim’s possession. However, if the value of the aforementioned items grows past a certain point, judges in different states may choose to raise the status of a larceny from petit to grand.

What Does It Mean If a Larceny Appears In a Criminal Records Report?

When performing a PeopleFinders criminal record check, you may come across the term larceny alongside other legal jargon. If you do, know that larceny describes theft without the threat of violence. You’ll have to read the rest of the report with care to determine the severity of the larceny charge and whether or not your subject was actually convicted and sentenced.