The National Trial Lawyers

Larceny (Theft)

Larceny is a serious crime that carries the possibility of a state prison sentence upon conviction.

Elements of Larceny

In order to convict a defendant of larceny, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  1. The defendant took and carried away property;
  2. The property was owned or possessed by someone other than the defendant; and
  3. The defendant intended to permanently deprive that person of the property.

The potential penalties for larceny depend upon the value of the allegedly stolen property.

There are several specific types of larceny that can be charged, including:

  • Larceny from a Person - a defendant is charged with larceny from a person when he or she allegedly takes the property directly from the victim or an area within the victim’s immediate control. Purse snatching or pick pocketing are examples of larceny from a person.
  • Larceny by False Pretenses - a defendant is charged with larceny by false pretenses when he or she makes a false statement and as a result of the false statement the alleged victim voluntarily gives up his or her property. This crime is charged when a defendant solicits donations for a charity that doesn’t exist, or keeps the donations that he or she solicited for charity.
  • Larceny by Embezzlement - a defendant is charged with larceny by embezzlement when he or she is in a position of trust, has legal access to the alleged victim’s property, and then converts the property to his or her own use. This crime is often charged when accountants for companies or charitable organizations skim money off the top for personal gain.
  • Larceny of a Motor Vehicle - there is a specific crime that can be charged when the defendant steals a car. The penalties for this crime are severe, and a second conviction carries a mandatory jail term.
Common Defenses and Defense Strategies

Larceny cases can be defended in a variety of ways.

  • Identification - Larceny is often a crime that can be proven only through circumstantial evidence. If nobody saw the alleged theft, identification of the defendant as the person who allegedly took the property will almost always be an issue.
  • Defendant’s Intent - The Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to permanently deprive the alleged victim of his or her property. There is sometimes evidence that the defendant intended only to temporarily take control of the property, in which case the Commonwealth cannot prove larceny.
  • Bias - If the alleged victim knows the defendant, bias is almost always a live issue at trial. Whether the defendant allegedly stole from a former employer, a former spouse, or another family member, any bad feelings between the parties may create an incentive for the alleged victim to lie. Attorney Spring will fully examine any bias or motive to lie during his cross-examination of the alleged victim.

Given the serious consequences that result from a conviction for larceny, it is essential that you have an attorney who is experienced in trying these types of cases. Attorney Spring prosecuted these cases when he served as an assistant district attorney earlier in his career and he has successfully defended hundreds of people accused of larceny as a defense attorney.

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