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What is larceny in Virginia?

Larceny is the legal term used in Virginia for what you (and most other people) might call theft. It means taking something without the owner’s permission and not intending to give it back.

Virginia law splits larceny into two main categories: Petit larceny and grand larceny.

What is the difference between petit larceny and grand larceny?

Petit larceny is a lesser crime than grand larceny. Petit larceny is a misdemeanor, whereas grand larceny is a felony. How a particular theft is classified depends on what was stolen and how.

If something was stolen directly from someone, such as via pickpocketing, it is viewed as petit larceny only when the thing stolen is worth less than $5. Anything more becomes grand larceny. If something is stolen but not directly from someone, say from a shop, then it counts as petit larceny up to a value of $1000. Above that, it becomes grand larceny.

How does the punishment differ between the two forms of larceny?

Petit larceny can result in up to one year in jail. Grand larceny can lead to a fine of up to $2,500 as well as a sentence of between one and 20 years behind bars. Repeat offenses will raise the sentence.

Are there any exceptions to these rules?

Yes, there are. Stealing a firearm is always a felony, regardless of how it was stolen or its value. Stealing animals is also considered a felony. 

Remember that prosecutors will often try to increase any charges against you. They might allege you intended to sell the stolen items, which is a more serious offense. Or, they might claim an item is worth more than it is to cross the threshold into grand larceny. If you’ve been charged with any kind of theft, it is vital to explore all avenues of defense.

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