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Defending against Virginia Theft Charges

Defending Against Virginia Theft Charges

Taking another person’s property without their permission is a crime, and those accused are looking at steep penalties, including possible jail time. At Bain Sheldon, our Virginia criminal defense attorneys have helped many men and women fight theft charges.

There are many types of theft, and the precise punishment you are facing will depend on what part of the criminal code you are charged with. Contact one of our criminal defense lawyers for more information.


Larceny involves taking another person’s property with an intent to permanently deprive the owner of it. However, Virginia recognizes two types of larceny—petit (simple) larceny and grand larceny. The distinction turns on the value of the property stolen and whether you took it from the person or not.

Va. Code §18.2-96 states that petit larceny is theft of property from another person that is valued at under $5 or property of worth less than $1,000 if not taken from the person. It is a Class 1 misdemeanor, which carries as penalty a $2,500 fine and up to 12 months in jail.

Va. Code §18.2-95 defines grand larceny as theft of property valued at $5 or more if taken from a person or $1,000 or more if not taken from a person.

If you have prior larceny convictions, then you are looking at potentially more serious penalties. For example, a second larceny conviction under §18.2-104 carries as punishment at least 30 days in jail, up to a year. If this is your third larceny conviction, then you are looking at up to 5 years in prison for a Class 6 felony.

There are many ways to defend against a larceny charge. For one, we could try to get a grand larceny charge reduced to petty larceny by contesting the value of the goods. Another defense focuses on your intent—larceny requires an intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property. In some cases, we could argue you intended to only use the goods temporarily, or that you were given permission to take the goods.


Shoplifting is a type of larceny laid out in Va. Code §18.2-103. It requires an intent to convert the goods without paying the full purchase price and can include:

  • Concealing goods while in a store
  • Taking possession of goods
  • Altering the price tags on goods
  • Transferring goods from one container to another
  • Helping someone commit any of these acts

For example, you might have switched price tags in a store or hidden an item in a purse or backpack. If you encouraged a friend to slip something in their pocket, you can also face a shoplifting charge. When the goods are worth less than $1,000, you can be charged with petty larceny. And you can face a grand larceny charge when the goods are worth $1,000 or more.

Shoplifting cases often involve a customer’s confusion. For example, you might place goods in your pocket and forget about them, or accidentally walk out of a store while holding onto something. Remember, the prosecutor must prove an intent to convert the goods to your own use. Sometimes, another person (such as staff) changed the price tags and you have no idea how much an item is really worth. Many stores have security video, but actions are often open to interpretation, and many clients had no intent to steal.

Receiving Stolen Property

Believe it or not, receiving stolen goods is also a crime in Virginia. However, Va. Code §18.2-108 requires that you knowingly receive the items or conceal them from another person. It is petty larceny when the goods are less than $1,000 and grand larceny when they are worth.

This type of case invariably turns on the defendant’s mental state. You cannot be convicted unless the prosecutor shows that you knew the goods were stolen. For example, you might receive a ring as a birthday present from your boyfriend, who stole it. If you did not know that fact, then you cannot be charged or convicted of receiving stolen property.

We Can Defend Against Theft Charges

The Richmond criminal defense attorneys at Bain Sheldon will carefully review your case and decide the best defense possible. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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