Larceny is the crime of stealing something of value. Property can be tangible, including money, real estate, jewelry, and other luxury goods. Property can be intangible, such as trade secrets, trademarks, and patents, or personal property, such as livestock. Some laws regard property as ownership of the object, while others regard property as ownership of the object and ownership of any income from or improvements to the object.

Perpetrator of Larcenies
  • Lawfully owns or lawfully possesses the property.
  • Gives, transfers, or conceals such property from the owner.
  • Intends to deprive the owner of the property.
  • Has no right, title, claim, or interest in the property.
  • Acts with reckless indifference to the rights of the owner.

People unfamiliar with criminal law may think that larceny is synonymous with "stealing." In a broad sense, that's correct. However, anyone charged with larceny needs to think about the crime's specific material and factual elements. Those elements include: that the property is permanently deprived, that the victim of the trespassed is another and that the accused intended to deprive the victim of his property. The types of larceny crimes can vary, and the charges a person faces will largely depend on the crime they're accused of.

A theft crime occurs when a person wrongfully takes, obtains, or withholds property from the owner. The property taken must be of some value, although the definition of that value varies from state to state.

Larceny is one of the less serious theft crimes but can still be charged as a crime. Larceny requires the accused to have, take, and carry away personal property that belongs to another with the intent to deprive them of it and face no compensation permanently.

Robbery differs from larceny in several respects. For example, if the defendant takes property that has been entrusted to their care, such as a stockbroker who misappropriates client funds, the conduct should be charged as embezzlement, not larceny. Similarly, a defendant who steals property from the victim using even the slightest amount of physical force may be guilty of the more severe crime of robbery. Even larceny can be further characterized in terms of the severity of the conduct. When committed on a small scale, the crime is known as petit larceny. The crime is known as grand larceny when committed on a large scale.

Evidence that there has been money, goods, services, or property belonging to someone else in your possession that you took either without consent or intending to deprive the owner permanently.
Expert testimony is often presented at trial to explain why the defendant committed the crime. Security surveillance video may be introduced as evidence too. Depending on the case, forensic evidence like the defendant's fingerprints may be relevant. Evidence about the defendant's motive may be relevant and admissible but may not necessarily be presented by the state.

Mistake, Intoxication, and Other Defenses

Sometimes defendants can successfully defend against larceny charges because they lack the specific intent to commit larceny. Larceny is a "specific intent" crime. Specific intent means the defendant must have planned to take the victim's property without intending to give it back.

Depending on the circumstances, however, a defendant can be charged with larceny even if they didn't plan on taking the victim's property but were careless or forgetful. Larceny can also be defended because the defendant's mental state prevented the defendant from forming the specific intent to deprive the victim of their property permanently. For example, a defendant can successfully defend against larceny charges because they had a diminished capacity due to being incredibly drunk at the time the property was taken. In an intoxicated state, the defendant may have been unable to reason about anything, let alone form the specific intent to deprive the victim of valuable property permanently.

The defendant may have been mistaken about some details regarding the incident. This may result in defense against the larceny charge, provided that the mistake was honest and genuine. Imagine an airline passenger who mistakenly grabbed someone else's luggage, not knowing that his luggage was gone from the carousel. The bags do not resemble the passenger's luggage, and the average person would not have made the same mistake. Nevertheless, if the mistake were genuine, the passenger would have a valid defense against the larceny charge.