Larceny is a legal term for theft in Virginia. There are two categories of larceny in Virginia: grand larceny (a felony) and petit larceny (a misdemeanor). Grand larceny is a very serious charge. In Virginia, a person commits grand larceny if they commit one of the following acts:
- larceny from the person of another of money or a thing of value worth $5 or more, or
- simple larceny not from the person of another of items worth $500 or more, or
- simple larceny not from the person of another of any firearm, regardless of the firearm's value.
The degree of seriousness of a larceny charge primarily depends on the value of the item stolen, unless that item is a firearm or was taken directly from a person. Taking property from a person (pickpocketing) is a serious crime if the value of the property is over $5.
What are the penalties for grand larceny in Virginia?
Grand larceny is a felony punishable by imprisonment in a state correctional facility for not less than one nor more than 20 years. Punishment is within the discretion of the jury or within the court's discretion if the case is tried without a jury before a judge. Alternatively, a person convicted of grand larceny may be sentenced to up to one year in jail or fined not more than $2,500 or both.
A person convicted of larceny may be ordered to pay restitution in an amount determined by the court or jury. Restitution is an amount of payment ordered by the court to be paid by the defendant as part of the punishment for the crime. It is intended to compensate the victim for the value of any lost property or other monetary losses incurred due to the alleged crime. In a grand larceny case, if the items taken were recovered, the defense may be able to argue that no restitution is owed to the victim. If items were recovered but damaged, the prosecutor may be able to argue that the defendant owes restitution for the cost to repair the damaged items.
What are possible defenses to grand larceny?
The prosecuting attorney must prove each and every element of the charge. If the prosecutor fails to meet its burden of proof, the defendant must be found not guilty. The defendant may be able to raise reasonable doubt about the value of the item or items that were allegedly taken. Another possibility is that the defendant may be able to raise doubt that he or she was the one that took the items that were allegedly stolen. If you can prove that you owned property that was allegedly stolen, this is a defense to grand larceny. However, you cannot use force to take property even if you own it. Use of force could lead to a charge of battery or robbery.
Lack of Intent
The prosecutor must prove that the defendant had the intent or mental state required to commit the crime. For example, if the defendant took an item because they believed that the item belonged to them and the belief was reasonable, the defendant does not have the intent to commit larceny. This is a question of fact and will depend on the circumstances. If the defendant took an item by mistake and failed to return it after realizing the mistake had occurred this could also damage the credibility of a defendant who alleges that taking the item was an honest mistake.
Mental Disease or Defect
In rare cases, a defendant may be unable to form the requisite intent to commit grand larceny because a mental disease or defect made the defendant unable to understand the nature and consequences of his actions or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law at the time of the alleged offense. This is also known as an insanity defense. The defendant will be required to undergo an examination by a forensic expert in psychology in order to present an insanity defense.
If the defendant was acting under extreme duress at the time that the alleged act occurred based on an immediate threat of death or bodily injury, the defendant may be able to argue that he should be found not guilty based on a defense of duress. For example, if the defendant took an item because a loaded gun was pointed at him and another person threatened to shoot him if he did not commit the act, the defendant may be found not guilty.
If you took an item that appeared to be abandoned, and that belief was reasonable, you may be found not guilty of grand larceny because it was not clear under the circumstances that the items taken belonged to another person. Again, this will largely depend on the facts and circumstances of the case. For example, if the defendant took an item from the side of the road that was laying next to bags of trash, it might reasonable for a judge or jury to believe that the defendant thought that the owner of the property intended to abandon the item.
If the alleged victim gave you permission to take an item, this may be a defense to grand larceny. It is important to provide your lawyer with any information you may have that could support a defense of consent. If you have text messages from the alleged victim regarding the property in question granting you permission to take the property it, this could help get your case dismissed. It is also important to give your lawyer the names and contact information for any witnesses who can vouch for your side of the story.
Mistake of Identity
In some cases, a defendant may be able to argue that the alleged victim is mistaken about who took their property. There have been many cases where eyewitness identification was later proven to be inaccurate. A defense attorney may be able to raise doubt about the identification by questioning the victim through cross-examination.
If the victim and the defendant had never previously met each other and the lighting conditions at the time of the alleged crime were poor, these facts could bolster a defense of mistaken identity. An attorney may also be able to challenge a case where a photo lineup was conducted if the police did not conduct the interview with the victim properly.
An attorney may be able to uncover evidence to corroborate the defendant's version of the facts. For example, the defendant may be able to ask that items be tested for forensic evidence like DNA or fingerprints if the police did not previously request testing. The prosecuting attorney is obligated to turn over some of the evidence the Commonwealth plans to use at trial to prove the defendant's guilt.
Contact a Virginia Criminal Defense Lawyer Right Away
If you have been accused of grand larceny, it is important to contact a lawyer right away. Talking to police without contacting a lawyer first can damage your case. A criminal defense lawyer can keep you informed of your rights and fight the state's case at every stage of the proceeding. Contact Bryan J. Jones, an experienced criminal defense attorney online or call (434) 260-7899.