WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GRAND LARCENY, PETIT LARCENY, AND SHOPLIFTING (OR CONCEALMENT)?
The difference between grand larceny and petit larceny in Virginia depends entirely on the value of the goods stolen. Va. Code Sec. 18.2-95 defines grand larceny as the intentional taking of someone else’s property when the value of the property taken is $200 or more. Va. Code Sec. 18.2-95. Va. Code Sec. 18.2-96 uses the same definition for petit larceny except petit larceny is defined as the taking of another’s property worth less than $200. Va. Code Sec. 18.2-96. Shoplifting, or concealment as it is often called, is defined in Va. Code Sec. 18.2-103. Shoplifting is punished as either petit larceny or grand larceny, depending on the value of the item taken. People often are surprised to learn that you can be charged with concealment even before you exit a store if it is proven that you concealed an item with the intent to steal it.
WHAT AM I FACING IF CHARGED WITH GRAND LARCENY, PETIT LARCENY, OR CONCEALMENT?
Being charged with any theft related offense is quite serious. Grand larceny is a felony punishable by up to twenty years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. Petit larceny is a misdemeanor punishable by up to twelve months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. A second offense of petit larceny or shoplifting is punishable by a minimum of 30 days in jail. A third offense petit larceny is a felony punishable by up to five years in jail and a $2,500 fine. This is true regardless of the value of the item taken. In addition, larceny-related offenses are considered “crimes of moral turpitude,” or crimes involving dishonesty. Thus, a larceny conviction carries a stigma with potential employers and can have long lasting effects on one’s ability to get or keep a job. While the maximum penalties are the same throughout Virginia, there are sometimes big variations in how larceny offenses are treated in Virginia. For example, if you are found guilty of petit larceny in York County, you can expect to receive an active term of incarceration even if you have absolutely no prior criminal record.
WHAT CAN I DO?
If you are charged with grand larceny or petit larceny, it is absolutely critical to obtain the assistance of a qualified lawyer. A good attorney will obtain all of the discovery in your case and will explore all possible defenses. Some defenses to larceny include a lack of criminal intent (for example, borrowing an item and forgetting to return it); consent (believing you had permission to take the property); lack of knowledge (not knowing that a friend put an item on the bottom of your shopping cart), and value (attacking the Commonwealth’s valuation of an item to get the charge reduced from grand larceny to petit larceny). There are also frequently search and seizure issues which can lead to a suppression of the Commonwealth’s evidence (if allegedly stolen property was discovered due to an unlawful search or seizure). Even if you are found guilty, an experienced attorney can often negotiate with the Commonwealth to allow you to take a class (such as a shoplifting prevention class) or do community service to reduce or dismiss the charge. Failure to hire a qualified lawyer could allow a one-time, youthful mistake to have potentially lifelong consequences.
WHY GOFF VOLTIN?
The attorneys at Goff Voltin have handled petit larceny, grand larceny, and concealment/shoplifting cases in Newport News, Hampton, Williamsburg/James City County, York County, Gloucester, and in other courts throughout Hampton Roads. We prepare diligently for each case and aggressively pursue all possible defenses. In addition, we are familiar with the courts in these jurisdictions and are thus able to tailor your case according to where your case will be heard. Call today for a free consultation!