Larceny, also referred to as theft in many states, is defined as attempted or completed theft of property or cash without personal contact. Larceny is most commonly referred to as non-violent theft of someone else’s personal property. This is the most common type of crime charged in the criminal courts in the U.S.
According to the FBI’s 2014 Crime in the United States report, there were 8,277,829 property crimes (including larceny-thefts) in 2014. It was also reported that larceny-theft alone accounted for 70.8 percent of property crimes in the same year. Around 1,238,190 people were arrested in the country for larceny-theft charges.
Types of Larceny-Theft
Larceny can be classified into two types – Petty (or Petit) Larceny and Grand Larceny. Petty larceny is referred to as the theft of property with a smaller value. To be charged with petty larceny, the maximum value of the stolen object must be less than $400.
Grand larceny, also known as ‘felonious’ larceny, is referred to as theft of property that is priced more than $400. As the name suggests, grand larceny is often considered to be a felony. Most common examples of larceny include purse snatching, shoplifting, acquiring lost property, etc.
Some states create specific categories for felony theft crimes, such as first degree, second degree, third degree, etc. First degree theft is the most serious crime.
Penalties for Larceny in U.S.
The penalties for larceny in the U.S. can range from minor to severe, depending upon the value of theft or type of larceny. Many factors come into play while determining the penalties for larceny. These include:
- Type and value of property stolen
- History of theft or related crimes
- Other factors, such as use of weapon during theft, damages caused, etc.
Larceny is mostly classified as a misdemeanor, and the offender is required to pay fines and serve jail time (depending upon the type of larceny).
Take the example of Kevin Krohn, a former pastor at the Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Ruidoso, New Mexico who was convicted of second-degree felony larceny of more than $20,000. He was sentenced to nine years, along with seven and a half years of suspension. You can read the full report here.
If you have been charged with larceny in New Mexico, you can consider hiring a New Mexico criminal lawyer and get rid of the charges. An experienced criminal lawyer can help you get the charges dismissed, most of the time; however, if the crime is severe, your lawyer can at least lower the sentence or restitution amount.
Remember, the statutes of limitation for larceny in the U.S. is five years. In some states, the statutes of limitation begin as soon as the crime is being committed; for some other states, the time period begins only once the crime is discovered. To know what the statute of limitation for your state is, you must consult an experienced criminal lawyer.
What to Do If You are Charged With Larceny?
When charged with larceny, you might wonder whether it is possible to get the charges dismissed. The simple answer is, yes. A number of defenses can be put forward by the lawyer you hire to represent you at the court. Remember, you can’t be put behind bars or asked for restitution until the prosecution can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you participated in the act of theft, or at least you intended to do it.
Some of the most powerful defenses to counter larceny charges are:
1. Belief of Ownership or Right of Use
A person who believes that he/she own a piece of property, or who believe that he/she has the right to use it, cannot be charged with larceny. This is because of the fact that a person doesn’t commit a larceny by taking his/her own property. But, proving an ‘honest belief’ of ownership or right to use can be very tough.
Entrapment happens when an innocent party is framed (or forced) to commit a crime that he/she wouldn’t have committed. This is often the most common defense put forward by criminal lawyers when defending their clients. However, in order to put forward this defense, you must not have a prior history of crime or an inclination to commit the crime.
3. Theft with Consent
One of the major criteria of larceny is to take over someone else’s property ‘without consent.’ If the defendant took possession of the property with consent of the owner, it does not amount to a larceny. For example, an owner can tempt someone to fake a theft in order to make an insurance claim. But, you must have enough evidence to prove that the owner provided the consent.
These are only a few of the many defenses that can prove your innocence.
No matter what kind of larceny charges are brought against you, it is always best to take help from an experienced criminal lawyer. Defending a larceny charge requires you to assess the entire situation and come up with a defense that seems most suitable for your case. If you are not represented by an expert, you might have to pay huge fines or spend a lengthy time in jail.
Stanley Foster is associated with the marketing division of New Mexico Criminal Law Offices, based in Albuquerque, NM. He has specialized in developing unique and high-quality content for law practices, which can help the entire community. Further, he is responsible for implementing creative strategy, project management, and online branding to develop the business in public and private sectors.