Fairfax Criminal Defense Attorney Explains: Petit Larceny & Misdemeanor Theft in Virginia
Petit Larceny is a Class 1 Misdemeanor offense in Virginia. What makes a theft a misdemeanor (petit larceny) versus a felony (grand larceny) is really an arbitrary boundary based on value. The felony-misdemeanor distinction varies from state to state. Up until recently the threshold distinction was anything valued at $200 or more was a felony. Last year the General Assembly amended the distinction at $500 or more. Effective July 1, 2020 the felony-misdemeanor distinction will be $1,000.00 or more.
This distinction is arbitrary because an owner of property, under Virginia law, can testify as to the value of their property by virtue of being the owner. The point is this: a person who has a watch that is unique and old may claim its value at $750 or claim it to be worth $1,500. That arbitrary assessment is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor. Retail theft, however, is more objective. The price of the good is fixed and everyone knows the claimed value. Additionally, just because a person claims an item to be worth a felony amount does not mean a jury or judge has to believe that claim. And a person charged with a theft can always present evidence in their defense on the issue of value.
Petit Larceny has a few elements that must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt before a person can be convicted of that offense. Those elements are:
- the defendant takes some thing of value from another;
- the taking is without their consent; and
- with the intent to steal (permanently deprive) the owner or person with a superior possessory interest of that thing.
Larceny by Trick is another form of theft made illegal in Virginia. Larceny by Trick involves taking possession of the property of another with their consent but with the intent to ultimately steal the item.
Larceny by False Pretense involves making a material misrepresentation to another causing them to transfer ownership (or title) of property that, but for the fraudulent statement, would not have been transferred.
Embezzlement involves being entrusted with the property of another and misappropriating the use of that property for a fraudulent or impermissible purpose.
Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle punishes joyriding wherein the person takes another's car and uses it without their permission, or beyond the scope of their original permission.
Theft offenses, whether felony or misdemeanor, are crimes of moral turpitude. And, under Virginia law, if you have two prior theft related convictions, any subsequent misdemeanor theft offense can be charged as a felony.
Effective July 1, 2020 a person charged with a misdemeanor property offense, including larceny and theft, may be eligible for a first offender program. Upon successful completion of a period of probation, including paying restitution if any is due, the charge is dismissed.
To learn more about theft offenses click here and go to our Theft, Fraud and Property Crimes page.
If you have been charged with Theft or Larceny, contact a Fairfax Criminal Defense Lawyer today. George Freeman will gladly meet with you and discuss your situation.