In Virginia, most theft crimes are encompassed under that larceny statutes of the state. In terms of criminal defense, larceny is not defined by a statue but is considered a common law. The legal definition of larceny in Virginia comes from the 1920 case, Vaughn versus Lytton. The case defined larceny as “the wrongful or fraudulent taking of personal goods of some intrinsic value, belonging to another, without his assent, and the intention to deprive the owner of thereof permanently.”
The Virginia Code §18.2-96 establishes a dollar amount threshold for when a theft is petit larceny, which is opposed to grand larceny. According to the statute, it is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is the most serious misdemeanor.
What is Considered Petit Larceny in Virginia?
Petit larceny can have a variety of meanings. For example, shoplifting is a theft offense, which is a form of petit larceny. The statutes explain two ways a theft offense could be considered a petit larceny, which include:
- When an individual takes cash or property worth less than $5 from “a person.”
- When an individual takes cash or property worth less than $200 “not from a person.”
The meaning of “from a person” is when an individual takes something that is on another individual’s body or in his or her physical possession or control. If an individual takes a wallet out of another individual’s hand or steals a handbag from an individual’s shoulder, then it would be considered theft from a person.The term “not from a person” is considered an indirect from of theft. When an individual takes another individual’s wallet from a locker at a gym, then the wallet is not in his or her physical possession or immediate control, which would be a form of theft that is not from a person.
Penalties for Larceny in Virginia
According to the Virginia Code §18.2-11, the penalty for a Class 1 misdemeanor is a sentence up to 12 months in jail and could include a maximum fine of $2,500.
There is a statute that sets alternate penalties if an individual is charged with multiple petit larceny convictions. According to the Virginia Code §18.2-104, there is a mandatory sentence of 30 days in jail when an individual is convicted of petit larceny and has a past larceny conviction in Virginia or any other state. When an individual has three or more subsequent convictions, it is considered a Class 6 felony, which has penalties that includes a prison sentence of one to five years and a fine up to $2,500. However, judges and juries are able to give sentences of less than 12 months for this type of felony.
Legal Defense in Virginia
In order to be convicted of a larceny in Virginia, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual accused has taken personal items, which have essential value to another person, without his or her consent with an intent to steal. A skilled criminal defense attorney has several ways to argue the case of the prosecuting attorney, which is dependent on the evidence and witnesses the prosecutor presents during a trial.
What is “No Taking”?
According to common law, when establishing a defendant took items there must be evidence that the defendant purposefully removed the items from the lawful owner. In 2008, the Virginia Supreme Court case titled Brit versus Commonwealth stated a defendant must “hold, seize, or grasp the property, with his hands or otherwise.” If an individual did not take the item into his or her hands but only had it in his or her possession for a moment, the individual may have a valid defense for a theft charge. However, an individual could be charged with theft in the event he or she influenced another individual to take the property, which is explained under the 1980 case of Turner versus Commonwealth.
What is the “Lack of Intent”?
A skilled attorney has a favorable chance fighting a theft charge, which includes presenting witnesses or evidence that argues the idea that an individual did not have intentions to steal cash or property. There are instances when an action that is perceived as theft is actually a mistake or accident. If an individual has an identical purse as another individual and accidentally picks up the wrong purse, then the action was unintentional. Another example would be when an individual accidentally leaves an item in a shopping basket and forgets to pay for the item. When intentional intent to steal is not present, then a case could be dismissed.
What is “Consent”?
Consent is when an individual believes he or she had valid reason to take the cash or property, which is another way to fight a petit theft charge. Consent is a way an individual can argue he or she had no intent to steal.
We Are Ready To Represent You!
If you have been charged with petit larceny in Virginia, it is highly recommended that you seek licensed and qualified legal assistance. The Brown Firm PLLC is highly experienced defending individuals in Virginia trial proceedings. Our criminal defense attorneys are ready to represent your best interests in court. We are prepared to aggressively protect your rights while negotiating with the court and the prosecution to decrease the severity of your penalties, or dismiss the charges entirely. Call The Brown Firm PLLC or contact us online to discuss your case and your options moving forward.