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Larceny/Theft

Larceny is also known as theft.  In order to commit larceny one must take possession of someone else’s property, without their consent, with the permanent intent to deprive.  One must move the property (asportation) and keep it for a period of time, even if slight.  Putting something in one’s pocket and leaving a store is a sufficiently completed theft.  However, setting something in a shopping cart, forgetting it is there then walking out without paying for it, is not a theft as there was no intent to take it without consent.  Larceny can be petty or grand depending on the value of the property and can be a felony or misdemeanor, also usually depending on the value.  Larceny can also be completed by different methods (such as by embezzlement or fraud) but for the current article, the basic larceny is the only one being dealt with. 

It is unnecessary for the property to be in the possession of the actual owner; whoever has the right to possess at the time of the taking is considered the “owner” for purposes of this crime.  For example, if a car was lent to someone to drive, and that car is then stolen from that the lendee, the lendee is still a victim of the crime of that theft.  It is not a defense to state that the car was not taken from the actual owner.

One of the defenses to theft is having a claim of right over the property.  If one believes that someone else has property that belongs to them, one has the right to take it back, even if it is a mistaken belief.   If a defendant had their bike stolen, and then sees an identical bike locked up near their house, decides to take it back thinking that it is their own bike, it is not theft. This is an affirmative defense and therefore the burden is on the defense to prove that that defendant truly believed, even if mistaken, that they were just taking back their own bike.

Another defense would be no intent to permanently deprive but pragmatically rarely works.  The burden shifts to the defense to prove that one did not intend to keep the property once the prosecution has shown otherwise.  It is difficult to prove that taking someone’s property that you did not intend to keep it or deprive it of value (otherwise why would you not have asked or paid for the item?).  Use of that property and depriving it of any value, or depriving the owner of enjoyment of that property is still considered theft.  If a teen takes their parent’s car without permission, they would intend to return it, however, they end up crashing it on the way.  That teen is still guilty of theft as the parents cannot drive it anymore.     

One need not use the property taken or gain any benefit in order to be convicted of theft.  Merely taking it and storing it somewhere is still a theft. 

What is not a defense is stating you didn’t think the property was worth anything.  If something has intrinsic value to the owner, that is enough to constitute a theft. 

Elements and crimes vary from state to state.  If you or someone you know is charged with any crime, as always, you should consult your local state Barred attorney, preferably one practicing only criminal law.  You can always look for your local criminal attorney at www.crimelawyers.org.


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