As with many states, the Commonwealth of Virginia classifies theft crimes according to the value and the type of stolen property. The three types of theft crimes under Virginia law are petit larceny, grand larceny, and shoplifting. All three of these types are covered under the Commonwealth’s larceny statute.
While Virginia law does not expressly define larceny, the common law definition, according to case law, provides that a person commits larceny if they fraudulently or wrongfully take the personal goods of another individual. For the theft to qualify as larceny, those goods must have some intrinsic value, and the accused must have taken them without permission and with the intention of depriving the owner of the goods on a permanent basis.
If you have been accused of theft, it is important that you know the differences in how these crimes are defined, as well as the penalties associated with each of them.
Petit Larceny Under Virginia Law
A person commits the crime of petit larceny (pronounced “petty larceny”) if they do either of the following:
- Steal money or other items of value of less than $5 directly from another person
- Steal property with a value of under $1,000
Under Virginia law, petit larceny is a Class 1 misdemeanor. If a person is convicted of petit larceny, they will face up to 12 months of incarceration as well as a fine of $2,500.
If the defendant has a clean criminal record, the judge has the option of placing them on probation without finding them guilty of the misdemeanor. If the defendant is able to complete the term of probation successfully, the case will be dismissed.
If, however, the defendant has a previous larceny conviction in Virginia or elsewhere, the person may face enhanced penalties.
Grand Larceny Under Virginia Law
A person commits grand larceny if they have committed larceny and one of the following is true:
- The stolen property is valued at $1,000 or more
- The accused has taken property valued at $5 or more directly from another person
- The stolen property is a firearm of any monetary value
Grand larceny constitutes a felony under Virginia law. If convicted, a person who has committed grand larceny will serve a minimum of one year and a maximum of 20 years in prison.
There are, however, provisions in Virginia law that allow judges and juries to punish instances of grand larceny as misdemeanors instead of felonies. This may happen, for example, if the convicted individual does not have a criminal record and if the value of the stolen property is not much greater than $1,000. In these instances, the convicted person will face penalties similar to those for petit larceny.
Shoplifting Under Virginia Law
A person commits shoplifting if they intentionally engage in any of the following acts without the merchant’s consent and with the intent to wrongfully and permanently take the merchant’s goods:
- Willfully hides or takes possession of the goods
- Changes the price of the goods
- Aids another individual who performs the above acts
Because shoplifting is a form of larceny, the criminal penalties will apply according to the value of the merchandise. Theft of goods under the value of $1,000 constitutes petit larceny, while theft of goods valued at $1,000 or more constitutes grand larceny.
Shoplifters may also be civilly liable to the store owner for twice the retail value of the item or $50 (whichever is greater), as well as the store owner’s court costs and attorneys’ fees (up to $150).
Contact an Experienced Richmond, VA Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been arrested for or charged with any of these three types of theft in Richmond, it is important that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as you can. These charges can have significant negative effects on your life, including limiting your chances of getting employment or housing. The skilled legal team at Bain Sheldon can work with you toward having your charges reduced or dropped entirely. Contact us today at 804-282-8625 for a free consultation, and we will discuss your legal options.