Defining Grand Larceny in Virginia

“Larceny” is the legal term for theft. Like most crimes, it is charged and sentenced in degrees. Typically, there are two forms of larceny: “petty” and “grand.”

Grand larceny is the more severe of the two charges. Sometimes, people mistake the word “grand,” thinking it means the stolen property is worth $1,000 or more. While that is often the case – as it is in Virginia – the word itself is not a synonym for “one thousand.” In this instance, “grand” means “large.”

What Makes Larceny “Grand”?

Many factors contribute to whether theft is charged as “petty” or “grand.” In Virginia, there are also other forms of larceny that are charged separately.

What Was Stolen

The value of the item itself can elevate larceny from petty to grand. Virginia’s standards continue to change in this regard. The most recent reform, enacted in 2020, raised the value of grand larceny from $500 to $1,000.

Firearms also have a special designation in the state. If you steal a gun, you could be charged with grand larceny, even if it is an inexpensive firearm.

How It Was Stolen

Value is not the only thing that makes theft a “grand” crime. If you directly take something from someone, you could be charged with grand larceny. This includes pickpocketing, purse snatching, and so forth. It doesn’t matter if the purse or wallet contained one dollar or one million. If you lift it directly off someone, you could be hit with a grand larceny charge.

Virginia’s Larceny Penalties

Grand larceny is a felony in the state. It is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Petty larceny, while not as severe, still carries steep penalties. It is a misdemeanor crime, and if convicted, you could serve up to 12 months in jail and be fined as much as $2,500.

Larceny With Intent to Sell

The alleged thief’s plans for stolen property affect the outcome of their case. If they wish to keep the property for themselves, they can be charged with petty or grand larceny. If, however, they stole something to sell it, they can be charged with “larceny with an intent to sell.”

This crime exists as its own category in Virginia; it is neither “petty” nor “grand.” Larceny with intent is a Class 5 felony. It carries a mandatory two years in prison, and the sentence can go as high as 20 years.

Defenses Against Larceny

As you can see, a larceny charge is serious, whether it is petty or grand. If you’ve been charged with this crime, you need a good defense to help preserve your innocence. Tell your attorney the whole story, and they may be able to use one of the following defenses in court.

You Believed You Had a Right to the Property

Simple mistakes happen, and you should not be convicted based on a technicality. You may have believed that the property was yours to take. Picture a wife who leaves her purse on a park bench, and she asks her husband to go back and get it. She provides a brief description of it, and he grabs the wrong one. He sincerely believed the property was his, and this is not cause to put someone in jail or prison.

You Had the Owner’s Consent

Just as there are mistakes, there are also misunderstandings. Imagine someone tells you that you can borrow their car. You assumed that you could use it whenever you needed and for any length of time. They wake up one morning to find their car missing, and you get accused of theft.

Intent is a big part of any successful criminal conviction. The prosecution must do more than prove an act occurred. It must also prove that your goal was to commit a crime. If you had permission to take the property, or you believed that you did, you can explain this situation in court.

You Were Forced to Take the Property

Dangerous criminals often use others to do their dirty work. If you are coerced into taking something illegally, you might not be held legally responsible. You can claim that you were operating under “duress.” If someone threatened you or your family, your actions may not be held against you.

If you’ve been accused of grand larceny, contact our office for help. We may be able to take on your case and help you craft a credible defense. Our number is (540) 827-4446, and we can be reached online.

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