Frequently Asked Questions About Theft Crimes

Frequently Asked Questions About Theft CrimesQ: How Does The Law Define Larceny In Your State?

Answer: Virginia common law defines larceny as the wrongful or fraudulent taking of personal goods of some intrinsic value, belonging to another, without his assent, and with the intent to deprive the owner permanently of such goods.

Q: What Determines The Category Or Degree Of The Larceny Charges?

Answer: The dollar value of the goods that were taken determines the degree of the larceny charge. If goods are valued at less than $200.00 then the charge would be petit larceny, a misdemeanor. If the goods are valued at $200.00 or more then the charge would be grand larceny, a felony.

Q: If A Person Takes Someone Else’s Property, But Then Returns The Property To The Rightful Owner, Can They Avoid Larceny Charges?

Answer: It depends on whether or not that person had the intent to return the property at the time of the taking. Intent to permanently deprive the owner is required to be guilty of larceny, so if the person takes someone else’s property with the intent to return it, then technically they cannot be found guilty of larceny. However, if a person takes someone else’s property intending to permanently deprive the owner but later change their mind, then that person is still guilty of larceny

Q: What Mistakes Do You See People Make Either In The Investigation, Arrest, Or Post-Arrest Phase That Hurts Their Larceny Case?

Answer: The most common mistake is that people freely admit their intent to the arresting officers. You cannot lie to the police, however, you also do not have to admit everything to them. Intent to permanently deprive is a necessary element of larceny, and that element is most easily and often proven by a defendant’s own admissions as to his intent.

Q: What Is Considered Petit Larceny?

Answer: Petit larceny is the wrongful or fraudulent taking of personal goods of some intrinsic value, belonging to another, without his assent, and with the intent to deprive the owner permanently of such goods. There is no minimum dollar amount necessary; the goods simply must have some intrinsic value, and if the goods are valued at $200.00 or more then it can be charged as a felony grand larceny.

Q: What Are A Few Examples Of Petit Larceny Crimes?

Answer: The most common example of petit larceny would be shoplifting. Simply going into a store and taking items without paying for them. Another example would be taking something out of someone’s bag or purse when they are not around.

Q: Is Petit Larceny Considered A Misdemeanor Or A Felony?

Answer: Petit larceny is a Class 1 criminal misdemeanor, which is the most serious class of misdemeanors in Virginia. It is also considered a crime of moral turpitude, or a crime involving lying, cheating, stealing, or deception.

Q: What Are Common Defense Strategies In Petit Larceny Cases?

Answer: It is critical to ensure that the prosecution can prove every element of their case and that they have the necessary witnesses to do so. Theft charges, more than many other misdemeanors, almost always require a non-law enforcement witness to prove their case. These witnesses are not nearly as reliable as police officers and defense counsel cannot just assume that the prosecution can produce all necessary witnesses

Q: What Are The Common Consequences Of A Petit Larceny Conviction In Your State?

Answer: As a Class 1 criminal misdemeanor a petit larceny conviction carries the potential of one year in jail, a $2,500 fine, and a permanent criminal record that can never be expunged. Additionally, as a crime of moral turpitude, a petit larceny conviction can have adverse consequences on immigration, a person’s ability to testify in court matters, and other areas of life.

Q: What Is Considered Grand Larceny?

Answer: Grand larceny contains all the same elements as petit larceny as well as one additional element. Unlike petit larceny, where the taken goods need not have any minimum value, grand larceny requires the taking of goods valued at $200 or more.

Q: What Are A Few Examples Of Grand Larceny Crimes?

Answer: Examples of grand larceny are similar to those of petit larceny except with more valuable goods. Shoplifting more than $200 of goods would be grand larceny, and taking a new iPhone from someone’s bag when they are not there would also be considered grand larceny.

Q: Is Grand Larceny Always Considered A Felony?

Answer: Unless the prosecutor or judge amends the charge to petit larceny, then yes, grand larceny is always a felony.

Q: What Are Common Defense Strategies In Grand Larceny Cases?

Answer: Just like with petit larceny, it is critical to ensure that the prosecution can prove every element of their case and that they have the necessary witnesses to do so. Theft charges, more than many other misdemeanors, almost always require a non-law enforcement witness to prove their case. These witnesses are not nearly as reliable as police officers and defense counsel cannot just assume that the prosecution can produce all necessary witnesses. With the additional element of the goods being valued at $200 or more, the need for witnesses is even more crucial than in petit larceny cases.

Q: What Are The Common Penalties/Sentences Of A Grand Larceny Conviction?

Answer: Grand larceny is an unclassified felony, which means that the statute provides for the sentence rather than falling into one of the already existing felony classes. Anybody found guilty of grand larceny faces up to twenty years in prison. Additionally, that person faces a permanent felony conviction that can never be expunged.

Q: How Is Shoplifting Defined In Your State?

Answer: Virginia Code §18.2-103 defines shoplifting as: whoever, without authority, with the intention of converting goods or merchandise to his own or another’s use without having paid the full purchase price thereof, or of defrauding the owner of the value of the goods or merchandise, (i) willfully conceals or takes possession of the goods or merchandise of any store or other mercantile establishment, or (ii) alters the price tag or other price marking on such goods or merchandise, or transfers the goods from one container to another, or (iii) counsels, assists, aids or abets another in the performance of any of the above acts. Any conviction under this statute is treated the same as a conviction for petit larceny or grand larceny depending on the value of the goods taken.

Q: Does A Shoplifter Need To Physically Leave The Store With The Concealed Items To Be Charged With A Crime In Your State?

Answer: No, Virginia’s shoplifting law allows for a conviction when the person willfully conceals the items as long as they had the requisite intent to take the goods for his own use without having paid the full purchase price. The law developed this way so that stores did not have to let a shoplifter walk out of the store in order to secure a conviction.

Q: What Is Price Manipulation? How Do Shoplifting Laws Treat Price Manipulation In Your State?

Answer: Under Virginia Code §18.2-103 price manipulation is treated the same as petit and grand larceny. If a person alters the price tag or switches price tags with the intent to defraud the store and obtain the goods, then he is guilty of either petit or grand larceny depending on the value of the goods

Q: Under What Circumstances, Can A Store Legally Detain A Suspected Shoplifter?

Answer: If a merchant or agent of the merchant has probable cause that a person has shoplifted then that merchant or agent of the merchant can detain the suspected shoplifter. The purpose of the detention is to hold the person until the arrival of law enforcement.

Q: What Rules Govern The Length Of Time, Physical Location, And Force That Can Be Used By A Store Owner Or Employee To Detain A Suspected Shoplifter?

Answer: Virginia Code §18.2-105.1 protects merchants and their agents from liability for detaining suspected shoplifters and governs the nature of the detention. Merchants and their agents may hold a suspected shoplifter for up to one hour on the premises of the merchant for the purpose of waiting until law enforcement arrives.

Q: What Factors Determine If A Shoplifter Will Be Charged With An Infraction, Misdemeanor Or Felony In Your State?

Answer: Shoplifting is a larceny crime so it can never be charged as an infraction. The factor that determines if the conduct results in a misdemeanor charge or felony charge is the value of the goods taken. If the goods are valued at $200 or more, the charge will be a felony, and if the goods are valued at less than $200, the charge will be a misdemeanor.

Q: What Are Common Defense Strategies In Shoplifting Cases?

Answer: As with all larceny cases, it is critical to ensure that the prosecution can prove every element of their case and that they have the necessary witnesses to do so. Shoplifting charges always require a non-law enforcement witness to prove that the defendant did not have permission to take the goods. These witnesses are not nearly as reliable as police officers and defense counsel cannot just assume that the prosecution can produce all necessary witnesses.

Q: What Are The Common Consequences Of A Shoplifting Conviction (Misdemeanor Or Felony) In Your State?

Answer: Shoplifting is punished the same as petit and grand larceny charges depending on whether or not the goods taken are $200 or more in value. Shoplifting less than $200 in goods is a Class 1 criminal misdemeanor and carries the potential of one year in jail, a $2,500 fine, and a permanent criminal record that can never be expunged. Additionally, it is a crime of moral turpitude.

Shoplifting $200 or more in goods is an unclassified felony. Anybody found guilty of faces between one and twenty years in prison. Additionally, that person faces a permanent felony conviction that can never be expunged.

Q: In All Of The Cases Mentioned Above, Are There Alternative Punishments Or Programs Available For First Time Offenders?

Answer: Many jurisdictions offer first time offender dispositions. Although they vary from county to county, they usually involve a plea of guilty to the charge of petit larceny although the judge does not find the person guilty immediately. The charge is usually continued out some period, six months to a year, and if the person completes certain conditions such as community service and an anti-theft course then the charge is dismissed at the end of that period.

Q: What Are The Short Term And Long Term Life Consequences Someone Could Face With A Theft Conviction?

Answer: The short term consequences that someone could face are jail time, a fine, and restitution to the person or merchant they are alleged to have stolen from. The long term consequences include a permanent criminal record that can never be expunged. Any employer, bank, housing complex, or school would be able to see a theft conviction on that person’s criminal background check.

Q: What Do You Tell Your Clients Who Think They Should Just Plead Guilty And Get This Over With As Quickly As Possible?

Answer: To those kind of clients I try to make sure they understand not just the short term consequences but also the long term consequences. While it may be enticing to put in the minimal effort and get the matter resolved as quickly as possible, that person is going to feel the effects of that guilty plea for the rest of their life. Every job they apply to will look at that person as a thief, making them much less desirable to hire.

Q: Can You Explain The Importance Of Working With An Experienced Attorney On A Theft Charge, No Matter How Minimal The Charge May Be Vs. Going It Alone Or Working With A Public Defender?

Answer: It is important to work with an experienced attorney on a theft charge because these charges can be very intricate and contain a lot of moving parts. An experienced attorney will be able to look at the charge and the fact pattern and determine exactly what the prosecution needs to prove and who they need to prove it. Only an attorney with that full understanding will be able to leverage the positive aspects of your case into the best possible outcome for their client.

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