Fairfax Criminal Lawyers: Larceny by Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney

Fairfax Criminal Lawyers Defend People Accused of Larceny

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Theft Offenses: Statistics and Introduction
Larceny Explained (in English)
Grand v. Petit Larceny
Penalties for Grand v. Petit Larceny
Value of the Goods
Defense Examples
Case Hypotheticals
Main Theft Offense Page
Virginia Embezzlement

Theft Offenses: Introduced by a Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney

Larceny is a serious offense; it does not matter whether the charge is for petit larceny or grand larceny; when it comes to the blemish upon one’s criminal record, both are criminal offenses which remain on an adult’s record forever. There are many Fairfax criminal lawyers who can help you if you have a pending case before the Fairfax County General District Court, or the Circuit Court, as the case may be.

Our Fairfax criminal defense attorney explains on this page various subtleties and nuances, as well as defenses and case examples, pertaining to the crimes of petit larceny and grand larceny. These two forms of larceny are similar but very different at the same time, and the consequences may be relatively mild to quite severe in nature. Embezzlement is another charge similar to larceny, except before the wrongful act, the person obtained possession of the property with permission. Embezzlement is punished as if it were a larceny offense, but the elements of the crime are different.

Theft Offenses: United States v. Commonwealth of Virginia

Before you read about larceny on this page, take a moment to soak in a few basic statistics. First, take a look at theft offenses and trends in the U.S; next, compare the national property crime figures to those reported in Commonwealth of Virginia. Finally, take note of Virginia’s rank among the other states with regard to larceny offenses.

Property Crime Trending Down Overall, Slightly Up in Recent Years

Fairfax criminal lawyers — and our Fairfax criminal defense attorney — enjoy educating members of the public… and we know our website is read by Americans all over the country. So, to keep articles fresh and interesting, we like to use statistics when relevant.

According to recent data released by the Department of Justice, 12,825,510 people reported that they were  a victim of a theft offense (property crime) in 2011. In 2002, that number was just above 14 million; in 2010, 11.6 million.

From these figures, we can assume theft offenses in the U.S. have declined since 2002, but have endured a slight uptick from 2010. These figures only account for property theft but not including auto theft or household burglary. Motor vehicle thefts and burglaries increased between 2010 and 2011; both numbers have declined, however, since 2002.

Of all violent crime victims in 2011, the most (49%) were from the 18 to 24 age demographic. The senior citizen population reported the fewest theft incidents, at just above 4%. Larceny is not considered to be a violent crime, because when larceny is accompanied by threats or intimidation, it is charged as robbery (a crime against a person, not solely property). If you have been charged with robbery and you believe you were not using threats, force, or threats of force, then you may wish to contact our Fairfax criminal defense attorney for a free consultation. If you have been charged with any theft offense, we strongly encourage you to schedule a free phone or office consultation.

How Does Virginia Compare? Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney Reveals Virginia Data

According to aggregated data from statemaster (source: Bureau of Justice Statistics), the recent data shows Virginia ranking within the top 20 states for instances of larceny. The data, although slightly outdated, is relevant for purposes of comparing states with one another. Virginia reported 142,679 larceny crimes in 2006. Compared to California, the state with the most larceny crimes in that same period at 666,860;  and, with the fewest; South Dakota with 9,296. It is fair to say Virginia is about average. After California, Texas, Florida, and New York ranked 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.

“Larceny” Explained by our Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney

At Vincenzes Law, PLLC, we understand how it is possible for a good person to make a bad choice. We also understand how the justice system is flawed in many ways. While no human system can be perfect, our legal team and our Fairfax criminal defense attorney is proud to represent all of our clients in the court of law. We never judge others; not only is it a bad idea to judge another person, “until you have walked a mile in their shoes,” it is simply not what we do. We are our clients’ champion; we are their biggest advocate, and we are their voice.  We defend clients accused of committing theft crimes.

What is Larceny? Common question asked of Fairfax Criminal Lawyers

Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney

Larceny means:

  • Taking of goods belonging to someone else;
  • Without the true owner’s consent; and,
  • Intent is not to “borrow,” but to “permanently deprive” the owner of possession.i

In addition to other areas of the criminal law we serve, we represent those accused of

theft crimes in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Our Fairfax criminal defense attorney can handle theft crimes including larceny, as well as others, which may refer to the following:

  • Petit larceny
  • Grand larceny
  • Embezzlement
  • False pretenses
  • Larceny by trick
  • Shoplifting
  • Robbery
  • Burglary
  • Fraud
  • Auto theft
  • Receipt of stolen goods, and many more…

There may be other theft related charges which one of the many Fairfax criminal lawyers or our Fairfax criminal defense attorney can assist with…just ask us about your charge and we will quickly reply.

Other areas in which we represent those facing the criminal justice system include: traffic defense, reckless driving, DWI, Cannabis crimes, drug possession, drug distribution, drug manufacturing, assault and battery, juvenile crimes, possession/distribution/manufacturing Schedule I or Schedule II substances (and others).

Our legal team and Fairfax criminal defense attorney can handle most misdemeanors and felonies in Fairfax County, Prince William County, and neighboring jurisdictions (including Arlington, Alexandria, Manassas, and more).

2 Main Types of Larceny: by Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney

“Larceny” is a word used to refer to a number of things, and in a number of contexts. Maybe you are here because you searched for, “Fairfax criminal lawyers,” or perhaps you found our Fairfax criminal defense attorney by some other method. Either way, if you are facing a theft charge in Northern Virginia and your Summons contains the word “larceny,” we strongly suggest you find a Fairfax criminal defense attorney. If one of the following code sections appears on your Summons, then you are on the right page:

You may be charged with Petit Larceny or Grand Larceny…and the charge may include another notation, for example, it may include (but may not be limited to):

  • “Petit Larceny <$5 From a Person (pick pocket)
  • “Petit Larceny“<200 Not from a Person
  • “Grand Larceny” $5+ From a Person
  • “Grand Larceny” $200+ Not from a Person
  • “Grand Larceny” Auto Theft

If you have been charged with embezzlement, then you may come across the word, “larceny,” because embezzlement is punished as larceny…however, embezzlement is a separate offense covered on a different page of our site.

Common Virginia Larceny Crimes Handled by Fairfax Criminal Lawyers

We cover the more common larceny crimes and charges on this page. First, we discuss the differences between “petit” and “grand” larceny…as well as the respective potential penalties involved:

Petit Larceny – Explained by Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney

Petit larcenya is a more common offense compared to “Grand” larceny. Specifically, petit larceny valued at less than $200 and “not from a person” is usually the most common larceny charge in Northern Virginia in a given week. Sometimes, this involves shoplifting. If the goods are “from a person,” then it is considered very serious and almost always is felony “grand larceny.” But if the value from the person equals less than $5, then it is the less serious, “petit larceny.”

Fairfax Larceny Attorney

Stealing a low-value item, like a muffin from a store, is petit larceny (unless it is a really, really valuable muffin!)

It does not make a difference whether or not the Commonwealth offers proof of the value of the item the defendant is alleged to have stolen. Proof of such value may be used to determine the “grade” of offense (grand vs. petit), but the item’s value in a petit larceny case must simply be found to have “some value.” ii Receiving stolen goods is a lesser offense included in the crime of larceny.iii

Penalties for Larceny in Virginia

Petit larceny is the most serious type of misdemeanor in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As a Class 1 misdemeanor, the judge is authorized to sentence a convicted person to up to a year in jail, a $2,500 fine, or both. All criminal offenses remain on one’s record for life, and while some criminal violations may not be tremendously harmful to an individual’s employment endeavors (for example, driving 81 mph in a 70 mph zone is a criminal offense: reckless driving), however, a crime involving stealing will make matters difficult in many situations.

Note: attempting a petit larceny is punishable by the same Class 1 misdemeanor penalties. An attempt to commit a misdemeanor is punishable just like the actual crime itself is punished.c

Grand Larceny – Explained by Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney

Grand larceny is a separate statuteb but uses the same definition of larceny as “petit” larceny.

Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorneys

“Asportation” or, “carrying away” is required for larceny: it can be very slight.

If someone commits “larceny” (defined above) by taking property or money from another person, and that property or money is $5 or more in value, then that is grand larceny. If the larceny was not from another person, but the goods were worth $200 or more, then that is likewise grand larceny. If the larceny is not from a person, and that item is a firearm, then value of the firearm makes no difference and that, too, is grand larceny.

Penalty for Grand Larceny: explained by our Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney

Grand larceny is punishable by time in a correctional facility for at least one (1) year. The sentence, however, can be up to twenty (20) years in jail. In the jury or court’s discretion trying the case, it may sentence the defendant to confinement for at least 12 months in jail, or fines up to $2,500, or both. If you face a grand larceny charge (or any larceny), time in jail is a real possibility if you are found guilty. Our local Fairfax criminal defense attorney can explain what “discretionary” confinement is as opposed to the regular sentencing guidelines. Do not waste time, as every day and hour counts.

Just like an attempted misdemeanor is punishable as if it were a completed crime, an attempted grand larceny (not a misdemeanor) is also punishable just as the law provides for the grand larceny if it had been fully completed. For an analysis of your case and whether you likely did perform some action, or did not perform some action to be considered an attempt, contact your local Fairfax criminal defense attorney.

Larceny does have to be prosecuted within a specific time-frame, but compared to some other crimes, the time is extended by law. For larceny, that time period is five (5) years.d

Fairfax Criminal Lawyers can Answer: “Why is Value Important?”

“Value” is an important aspect of the crime of larceny. Remember, petit larceny only requires the item have “some value.” Grand larceny requires a certain value level. Who determines value? In cases involving goods valued around $200, (or $5, if taken from a person), who or what determines the value…and ultimately, the defendants’ potential sentencing guidelines?

First, in the case of a grand larceny, if the value can be proven to be less than $200 (for an item taken not from a person), the law provides:

“In a prosecution for grand larceny, if it be found that the thing stolen is of less value than $200, the jury may find the accused guilty of petit larceny.”e

If the charge is petit larceny, as opposed to grand larceny, then another Code section provides:

“even if the item stolen is worth $200 or more, the jury may find the accused guilty; and upon a conviction under this section or § 19.2-289 the accused shall be sentenced for petit larceny.”f

The owner of the property can offer testimony, but what about a person who does not own the goods? And what if the non-owner is not even an expert when it comes to valuation of the type of good, or an expert when it comes to the type of good, generally? It may come as a surprise to some non Fairfax criminal lawyers, but the answer is that opinion testimony of a non-expert who does not own the property, can still offer admissible testimony about the property value, but only if the person has adequate knowledge of the value or has had a substantial opportunity for forming an unbiased opinion.vii Ask our Fairfax criminal defense attorney to articulate how one of the cases cited on this page may be similar or not-so-similar to your unique facts.

Fairfax Criminal Lawyers are Asked Frequently, “Do I have a Defense to Larceny?”

Poor or Useless Defenses in Most Cases, According to some Fairfax Criminal Lawyers

 “My Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney Noticed a Defective Warrant! Did I have Sufficient Notice?”

Fairfax criminal lawyersMost Fairfax criminal lawyers, including our Fairfax criminal defense attorney, can explain to you the basic requirements for a warrant to be valid. Sometimes, even a minor deficiency can lead to big problems. But the point to take away from this section of the page is that “sufficient notice” is really the underlying concept to grasp. If the warrant provided to the accused individual does not include information about who owned the stolen item, then some might think the case ought to be dismissed for a lack of notice. But even when the warrant does not name the owner of the property, if the information contained in the warrant does provide the accused with enough notice, then the lack of the owner will not result in dismissal.v

Missing Items were Found in Private Area, not My Room! Will a Local Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney Tell me to Plead Not Guilty?

Whenever you consult local Fairfax criminal lawyers, including our own Fairfax criminal defense attorney, he or she will tell you that how you plead is up to you, the client. After all, it is your liberty on the line. But as your local Fairfax criminal defense attorney, Fairfax criminal lawyers should strive to tell you why pleading a specific way is a wise option, or a poor option; it all depends on the facts surrounding your unique case.

While many facts and circumstances can cause similar cases to lead to different results, in one case, stolen items were found in a private room of a house. The defendant lived in the house, but did not use the room. The court found the goods to be in the defendant’s exclusive constructive possession (as opposed to not in his possession).vi

Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney Explains: Possible Defenses or Challenges to Larceny in Virginia

If a person is accused of receiving stolen goods, then the proper place for he or she to be tried is in the jurisdiction (or, court system) where he or she received the property or possessed it.iv In other words, if charged in another locality or county, then the case may be out of the jurisdiction of the court. Jurisdictional questions are basic foundations of legal knowledge possessed by the competent Fairfax criminal lawyers. Our Fairfax criminal defense attorney can explain whether or not your charge was properly brought before the court you have been summoned to appear in front of.

If the goods are not identified by serial number and no evidence exists that such goods were recently stolen, then a larceny defense lawyer might argue that serial numbers should have been compared (if they were not). But if the goods are found in the accused’s possession and are of a kind recently stolen, then the court has not, in the past, required identification by serial number to prove possession of the stolen goods.vi

In a grand larceny prosecution, the Commonwealth must prove the value to comply with the statutory amount required. If they cannot do so, grand larceny cannot be the charge used to convict. A local Fairfax criminal defense attorney may still need to advocate on your behalf if you have been charged under a different statute, so make sure to tell your attorney everything: no matter which of the many Fairfax criminal lawyers you choose to represent you.

If a person took an item with the intention of borrowing the item, but then has a dispute for some reason with the owner, then is it larceny or theft in any way, if that person does not return the item? Maybe. Technically speaking, to be convicted, the defendant must have had the criminal intent to steal when he took the item.xiii

Should I pick one of the professional Fairfax Criminal Lawyers if the Item I took is Old and Used?

Yes. Our Fairfax criminal defense attorney can explain why value may or may not be significant, depending on your charge. Our Fairfax criminal defense attorney can also help you critically think about any ways your defense team may be able to dispute the value, if the Commonwealth Attorney can even make a case. A common value question pertains to used or old goods. For example, if value is a key question (for example, a grand larceny prosecution), then the item, if used, may be difficult to pin a value to. The price tag of the same item (but new), is not enough to prove the value of the used item.vii

If the Commonwealth alleges the value of a specific item to be the value of the “whole,” then that is not considered properly proving value of the item in question. For example, imagine a glass display of a boy and a girl, about 3 feet tall per figure. The two figures are part of a store display. They were sold to the store as a pair, or, a single unit. If a person is accused of stealing one of the two figures, then there is an argument to be made that the correct valuation should not take into account both figures; only the stolen figure.xiv  Our Fairfax criminal defense attorney is one of the Fairfax criminal lawyers whom can explain to you and investigate if need-be, any possibility that the item is incorrectly valued by the Commonwealth (prosecution).

Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney

Theft of a firearm is a grand larceny, even if it is valued at less than $200

There are countless “defenses” to larceny…but the proper phrase we like to use is, “theory of the case.” A “theory of a case” is like a game-plan, and encompasses the main strategy or argument made by defense counsel. Sometimes, evidence against an accused individual is substantial…and often, it comes as no surprise to the defendant. The theory of the case in such a context might be an “affirmative” defense, or it could be to focus on “mitigating factors.”

Affirmative Defense explained by our Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney

An affirmative defense is essentially saying, “yes I committed the crime, but I had a reason and that reason should absolve me of liability.” Typically, an affirmative defense will come in one of two flavors: justifications or excuses. We have covered justifications and excuses on a different page, but in short, a justification is something that one would not be ashamed or embarrassed of. For example, self-defense is a justification to an assault and battery. On the other hand, an “excuse” is something we do not celebrate, but it is something to consider in terms of whether or not the accused ought to be considered criminally liable. Two examples are insanity and involuntary intoxication.

Mitigating Factors explored by Fairfax Criminal Lawyers

Mitigating factors might not be full defenses, but they may be important for purposes of sentencing. If a person is found guilty of a crime, and he or she was on a new medication prior to taking some bizarre, uncharacteristic action, then it may be adjudicated as an excuse defense. But if there is not enough evidence to suggest that the criminal act was a product of the unforeseeable intoxication caused by the medicine, then perhaps the judge will take it into account as a “mitigating factor.”

Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney Provides Case Examples


These are examples of Virginia larceny cases, three illustrating when evidence was held sufficient for a finding of guilt, and three to illustrate when evidence was held insufficient. These examples are not examples of defendants we have represented.

Yes, Enough Evidence: Fairfax Criminal Lawyers have Knowledge

Case 1

Witnesses / victims testified in court that the items found in the defendant’s vehicle were the same items they noticed and reported stolen. On the same day that the items were reported stolen, they were found in the defendant’s vehicle.viii

Case 2

A neighbor heard something coming from the victim’s house, and then saw the defendant leaving the scene. The neighbor noticed a cord protruding from the defendant’s pants, presumably coming out of his pocket. When the defendant realized he was being watched by the neighbor, he let out a slur of curse words. At the same trial, the defendant gave a conflicting account as to his whereabouts that evening. Despite all of the evidence in this case being circumstantial, it was enough to convict.ix

Case 3

A man entered a store and removed two containers of ointment from their display boxes on the shelf. He then put the two containers in his pockets, but did not leave the store. He was properly convicted, according to the court, because he did put the items in his pocket, and also made a statement, he was being “stupid.” The court found this enough to indicate the presence of criminal intent.x

No, not enough evidence

Case 1

There was no proof beyond a reasonable doubt in a case where the evidence placed the accused in the same area where the theft took place, as well as the general areas where the items stolen were found…but even together, it created only a mere suspicion and not sufficient evidence to prove guilt.xi

Case 2

A case coming down to the “value” of the tools for a grand larceny conviction: a witness testified that the tools in question were purchased in 1986 or 1987 and that she did not know the price, and the estimated replacement cost was $540. But the witness was not the owner of the tools, and she did not testify what effects wear and tear would have on the value of the tools…if any. … The estimation did not properly establish the current value of the stolen goods, reflecting effects of wear and tear. Thus, the evidence was not sufficient to prove the value of the tools was greater than $200.vii

Case 3

The intent to “permanently deprive” the owner is necessary for a larceny conviction. In one case, the defendant borrowed a tool and never asserted his own right to ownership, and also always stated he intended to return the tool. When he could not find the drill (for reasons not clear), he paid the owner for the price of the drill. This evidence was not sufficient to support a larceny charge.xii

Your local Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney Reminds You

Do not rely on anything you find on the internet. This page and entire website is not legal advice. It is for informational purposes only. This page covers the basics of larceny. We have covered other theft-related offenses, such as embezzlement. In the near future, we will soon cover robbery, burglary, and abduction, in addition to fraud and other similar crimes. If you have been charged with any offense that is criminal in nature, or if you are not sure whether your offense is civil, criminal, or a mere infraction or ordinance violation with no criminal repercussions, please call one of your local Fairfax criminal lawyers or our Fairfax criminal defense attorney. Brenton D. Vincenzes helps advocate for those accused of committing crimes and traffic violations in Northern Virginia.

Larceny References on Page by Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney
The Code of Virginia – Larceny and Larceny Related

[a] 18.2-95 Grand larceny defined; how punished.

[b] 18.2-96 Petit larceny defined; how punished.

[c] § 18.2-27. Attempts to commit misdemeanors; how punished.

[d] § 19.2-8. Limitation of prosecutions.

[e] § 19.2-289. Conviction of petit larceny.

[f] § 19.2-290. Conviction of petit larceny though thing stolen worth more than $200.

Case Law

[i] Bright v. Commonwealth, 4 Va. App. 248, 356 S.E.2d 443 (1987).

[ii] Evans v. Commonwealth, 226 Va. 292, 308 S.E.2d 126 (1983).

[iii] Henderson v. Commonwealth, 215 Va. 811, 213 S.E.2d 782 (1975).

[vi] Davis v. Commonwealth, 14 Va. App. 709, 419 S.E.2d 285 (1992).

[v] Humphreys v. Commonwealth, No. 1324-95-4 (Ct. of Appeals Feb. 11, 1997).

[vi] Wright v. Commonwealth, 2 Va. App. 743, 348 S.E.2d 9 (1986).

[vii] Owen v. Commonwealth, No. 1495-95-2 (Ct. of Appeals May 28, 1996).

[viii] Harris v. Commonwealth, 38 Va. App. 680 568, S.E.2d 385, (2002). Rev’d on other grounds.

[ix] Tucker v. Commonwealth, no. 1288-02-2, 2003 Va. App. LEXIS 347 (ct. of Appeals June 17, 2003).

[x] Dance v. Commonwealth, No. 3085-02-2 2003 Va. App. LEXIS 393 (Ct. of Appeals July 8, 2003).

[xi] Duncan v. Commonwealth, 218 Va. 545, 238 S.E.2d 807 (1977).

[xii] Huddleston v. Commonwealth, No. 2335-98-3 (Ct. of Appeals Oct. 19, 1999).

[xiii] Tarpley v. Commonwealth, 261 Va. 251 542 S.E.2d 761, 2001 Va. LEXIS 31 (2001).

[xiv] Camden v. Commonwealth, No. 2951-96-3 (Ct. of Appeals Dec. 16, 1997).

Images – courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

“Man Pickpocketing A Purse From Womans Bag ” by C. Dominici

“Woman Protecting Her Bag From Mugger”

“Young Business Man” Photostock

“Kid Stealing Muffin From Table” S. Miles

“Stick Up” by S. Howden

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Brenton D. Vincenzes is a lifelong Fairfax County resident and Fairfax Criminal Defense Lawyer who protects and serves those charged with criminal and traffic offenses in Northern Virginia. He is a member of the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and has been certified by the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission. As a local leader, Mr. Vincenzes mentors troubled youths, volunteers his time to serve at his church, takes private and court appointed indigent clients, and strives to improve the community. Mr. Vincenzes serves juveniles, adults, and families through his zealous and diligent advocacy, strategic planning, and skilled trial work. Mr. Vincenzes' areas of criminal law practice are broad, and include most felonies and misdemeanors such as: reckless driving, DUI & DWI, drug offenses, assault and battery, domestic violence, assault on an officer, destruction of property, alcohol offenses, firearm offenses, larceny, shoplifting, embezzlement, fraud, and other theft offenses, and moving traffic violations among others. Mr. Vincenzes also offers estate planning services, including Wills, Trusts, and Powers of Attorney. His private legal services are available in most Northern Virginia jurisdictions, including Fairfax County, Arlington County, Prince William County, Loudoun County, Stafford County, Alexandria, Manassas, Leesburg, South Riding, and other cities and towns.

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