Modern legal systems treat larceny as a crime, but it wasn’t always the case. Ancient Roman laws regarded larceny as a civil matter in which the victim could sue the thief for damages equivalent to stolen property.
Eventually, the Romans adopted criminal proceedings for specific larcenies but only for serious offenses, and the punishment was banishment, death, or forced labor.
Today, jurisdictions have well-defined sentencing guidelines, often relying on offense calculations, to categorize larceny crimes, with each category specifying the penalties a particular larceny charge carries.
Say you or someone you know faces a grand larceny charge. In that case, you should know whether your case pertains to the alleged crime.
You might also want to know what punishments the court will impose, such as fines and imprisonment, if you’re convicted of grand larceny.
This article discusses grand larceny, including its legal definition, possible sentencing outcomes, and defenses.
Learn more about what consequences to expect, in terms of fines and jail time, when facing a grand larceny charge.
Grand Larceny in the U.S.: Charges and Penalties
Based on the U.S. federal statutes, grand larceny falls under the category of larceny or theft.
This category includes criminal offenses similar to or related to grand larceny, such as the following:
- Grand theft
- Any other felony theft, including theft of rental property, mail theft, and burglary from an automobile
Meanwhile, the category does not include forgery, receiving or buying stolen property, motor vehicle theft, fraud, or deceit.
What Are the Penalties for Grand Theft?
The penalties for grand larceny, also known as grand theft, can vary considerably depending on the jurisdiction, the stolen property‘s value, the case facts, and the defendant’s criminal background.
In California, an individual commits grand theft if the value of stolen services or property exceeds $950.
Meanwhile, the defendant is guilty of petty theft if the value of the stolen services or property is under $950.
Jail or Prison
In most cases, a grand larceny offense is a wobbler, meaning the prosecutor may charge the person who allegedly committed it with a misdemeanor or felony grand theft.
The maximum possible sentence for misdemeanor grand theft in California is up to one year in county jail.
For felony grand theft, the defendant may be sentenced to the following period of incarceration:
- 16 months
- Two years
- Three years
Fines and Restitution
Aside from imprisonment, a grand theft conviction typically requires the defendant to pay a considerable fine.
A state may set the felony fines at a minimum of $5,000 and go up to or over $100,000.
The courts may also require defendants to pay restitution if found guilty of stealing. The convicted individual pays restitution to the property owner (the victim), which is typically equivalent to the value of the stolen property.
If the convicted person receives probation (instead of imprisonment), the court may require them to complete community service hours.
Judges can get creative here and order the defendant to volunteer for a task related to their crime.
Say the perpetrator steals a boat. The judge might require them to clean up a section of a public beach.
Special Larceny Charges
These charges represent a specific larceny charge with a unique classification or designation in a particular jurisdiction.
For example, South Carolina has laws governing the following larceny crimes:
- Altering or falsifying a diploma or transcript; fraudulent use of altered and falsified diploma or transcripts
- Stealing products or damaging facilities
- Theft of livestock; confiscation of a motor vehicle or another chattel (personal items)
- Petit larceny (petty theft)
- Stealing bonds and the like
- Theft of bicycles
- Product code creation to fraudulently purchase merchandise or goods for less than the actual sales price
- Breach of trust with fraudulent intent
- Obtaining signature or property by pretense
- Unauthorized removal or concealment of library property
Sentencing Guidelines: Other Important Factors
Sentencing guidelines for crimes, including larceny charges, consider many relevant factors that help determine the suitable punishment for the convicted individual.
The federal sentencing guideline considers the offense’s severity and the offender’s criminal history.
While these considerations vary based on the jurisdiction and the specific case facts, here are some typical considerations that may influence sentencing:
- Mitigating circumstances: Factors that lower a defendant’s level of culpability, including evidence of remorse or lack of a prior criminal record, may result in a more lenient sentence.
- Impact on the victim: The effects of the crime on the victim, including financial or emotional strain, can affect the judge’s decision.
- Three-strikes law: This law considerably increases the prison sentences of individuals convicted of felonies and who have been found guilty of violent or severe felonies before.
The law also restricts the ability of these offenders to receive a penalty other than a prison sentence.
Federal Grand Larceny Laws, Charges, and Statute of Limitations
The federal government regulates theft offenses, including grand larceny, under Title 18, Section 641 of the United States Code (USC).
Grand larceny is generally referred to as “theft” in federal law. The aspects of the offense and the punishments associated with the crime depend on the value and type of the stolen property.
Grand Larceny Theft Laws
Grand larceny differs from embezzlement in that the alleged thief had no legitimate access to the property.
The Code of Virginia defines grand larceny in the following ways:
- The defendant commits simple larceny not from the individual of another of goods and chattels (personal items) of the value of $1,000 or more.
- The defendant commits larceny from the individual of another of money or other things worth $5 or more.
- The defendant commits simple larceny not from the individual of another of any firearm, regardless of the firearm’s value.
The code states that the crime is punishable by imprisonment for up to 20 years in state prison. Additionally, at the discretion of the jury or a court without a jury, offenders may be confined in jail for up to 12 months or fined up to $2,500 or both.
Federal Grand Larceny Statistics
While there are no official government data regarding grand larceny in the U.S., here are statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding larceny thefts:
- In 2019, there were approximately 5,086,096 cases of larceny thefts nationwide.
- Larceny thefts represented around 73.4% of property crimes in 2019.
- The average property value stolen during larceny thefts was $1,162 per offense.
Grand Larceny Theft Crimes and Charges
Federal grand larceny theft includes various theft, of which the following is just a quick overview:
- Theft by deception, trickery, or fraud, including scams, con games, insider trading, fraudulent credit card schemes, and other acts of stealing involving misrepresentation
- Theft by taking, in which the property is taken entirely from where it was obtained
Examples of Grand Larceny
Typical examples of grand larceny include shoplifting of many goods, auto theft, and stealing money or property obtained via identity theft or credit card fraud.
Grand Larceny Theft Punishment
Grand larceny-theft penalties often depend upon the item’s value and other aggravating factors.
Most state laws distinguish between larceny theft at a misdemeanor level and larceny-theft as a felony. States specify the specific level at which these distinctions happen.
Grand Larceny Theft Sentencing Guidelines
Federal grand larceny theft sentencing standards use a point system in which six points represent the “Base Offense Level.” Larceny thefts exceeding $5,000 receive additional points.
Over eighteen aggravating factors contribute to the addition of points. Imprisonment can last several months to twenty years or more, especially if the larceny-theft involves other offenses, such as trespassing, aggravating the larceny charge.
States may vary what acts constitute petit larceny, but here’s an example from Virginia:
- A person guilty of petit larceny commits larceny from the individual or another of money or another thing of value of less than $5.
- A person who commits simple larceny not from the individual of another of goods and chattels of less than $1,000 is guilty of petit larceny, an offense punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree
Fourth-degree grand larceny can be charged as such when the following criteria are met:
- Value exceeds $1,000.
- The stolen property includes any of the following:
- A public record, writing, or instrument kept by a public servant or office
- Secret scientific material
- Credit or debit card
- The item is taken directly from someone or obtained through extortion.
- Value exceeds $100 and is a motor vehicle (except motorcycles).
- Item has religious and symbolic significance and is used for worship.
Grand Larceny in the Third Degree
An individual may be guilty of third-degree grand larceny — a class D felony in New York — when they steal property and when any of these conditions is true:
- The property’s value exceeds $3,000.
- The property is an ATM (automated teller machine) or the contents of an ATM.
Class D felony usually involves nonviolent offenses like property crimes, white-collar crimes, and drug possession.
Grand Larceny in the Second Degree
Individuals may be guilty of second-degree grand larceny – a class C felony in New York – when they steal property valued over $50,000.
Grand Larceny in the First Degree
People may be guilty of first-degree grand larceny – a class B felony in New York – when they steal property whose value exceeds $ 1,000,000.
Aggravated Grand Larceny of an Automated Teller Machine
Generally, this charge may apply when an individual commits grand larceny in the third degree, with a prior conviction of the same offense within the past five years.
This offense may be classified as a Class C felony and comes with a potential maximum imprisonment of 15 years in state prison.
Penal laws make exceptions and allow enhancements of punishments based on aggravating and mitigating factors. For example, theft of a particular property type may be treated more harshly regardless of value.
Larceny and Civil Penalties
The state prosecutes larceny as a crime, so a convicted person could receive punishment involving fines, prison time, or community service.
On the other hand, civil theft constitutes a “tort.” Torts involve wrongful acts or infringements of rights and usually provide a way for the offender to compensate victims.
Grand Larceny Theft Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for misdemeanor grand theft is one year, while for felonies, it is three years. Check your state’s sentencing guidelines to be sure.
Grand Larceny Theft Cases
Grand larceny cases associated with other criminal behavior include the following:
- Criminal tax fraud
- Identity theft and forgery
- Falsifying business records
- Felony shoplift
Grand Larceny Laws by State
Again, states differ in sentencing options for grand theft.
As of 2021, Texas has the highest record of larceny-theft cases in the U.S. Here are grand larceny laws for Texas:
- State jail felony: Theft of $1,500 to $20,000, punishable by 180 days to 2 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000
- Third-degree felony: Theft of $20,000 to $100,000, punishable by 2 to 10 years of incarceration and a fine of up to $10,000
- Second-degree felony: Theft of $100,000 to $200,000, punishable by 2 to 20 years of incarceration and a fine of up to $10,000
- First-degree felony: Theft of property worth more than $200,000, punishable by 5 to 99 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000, or both
Defining Value: Market, Replacement, or Another Measure
If the actual worth of the stolen item cannot be determined, the value of the property stolen in a grand petit or grand larceny approximates the property’s market value. If that cannot be determined, that value is the replacement value.
Grand Larceny and Felony Theft
Jurisdictions sometimes use these terms interchangeably. Some states use “grand larceny,” while others “felony theft,” or simply “theft” for severe theft offenses.
The primary difference may be in the thresholds that trigger the classification. In some jurisdictions, grand larceny usually covers thefts of higher value, while felony theft might apply to a broader range of thefts exceeding a particular monetary threshold.
Where’s the Line Between Petty Theft and Grand Theft?
Grand theft is a more severe theft offense than petty theft. Jurisdictions often differ based on the value and type of the stolen property.
You may be guilty of grand theft if you commit any of the following acts:
- Break into a home and steal electronics worth more than the state-set amount.
- Embezzle from a company.
- Shoplift from a jewelry boutique.
What Is Grand Larceny?
As mentioned, grand larceny is the theft of another person’s property, including money, over a specific value set by the existing criminal laws.
Some states do not differentiate between grand and petty larceny (or theft) but draw the line between a misdemeanor (punishable by fine or local jail time) and a felony (punishable by state prison time) based on the value of the stolen item or property.
What Makes Larceny “Grand?”
Generally, a larceny becomes “grand” when the act involves property theft exceeding a state-set value threshold.
What Was Stolen?
Grand larceny charges do not apply to any property. This criminal offense usually only applies to goods, instruments, or other personal property, including a wallet, cash, or computer.
Some penal codes regarding theft or larceny have specific sections covering unique larceny offenses.
What Is Grand Theft?
This term typically refers to grand larceny. As such, it involves the unlawful taking of services or property worth beyond a predetermined amount.
Monetary Thresholds: Value of the Property
This factor refers to the value that prosecutors use to determine whether the criminal act is grand or petit (minor) theft.
Say the monetary threshold between petty theft and grand theft is $1,500. In that case, a person who steals a property worth $1,499 and below commits petty theft, while someone who steals a property worth $1,500 and above commits grand theft.
Types of Property
Grand theft can also happen based on the specific type of property stolen, regardless of its value.
The types of property that may be considered grand theft, thus a felony offense, differ from state to state but usually include firearms, drugs, and automobiles.
Penalty, Punishment, and Sentence for Felony Stealing
Like with other crimes, the penalty or punishment someone guilty of stealing may incur depends on the degree and extent of their theft.
For example, the court may also review the factors surrounding the act of stealing, such as whether the perpetrator committed violence while engaging in the activity, to determine what sentence to impose on the defendant.
Examples and Hypotheticals of Felony Larceny
The easiest way to visualize various ways you could get in trouble with larceny laws is through short scenarios and examples.
You may be charged with felony larceny if you did not have the authority to act in the following manner but still did so knowingly:
- You removed a credit card from a purse at a bar.
- You overspent on a corporate card with unauthorized transactions over a certain monetary threshold.
- You embezzled $125,000 by diverting checks or cash from your employer’s business account to yours.
Your Defense, Your Case, Your Future
Whether it’s a white-collar crime like grand larceny or other violent offenses, the arresting officers must comply with the constitutional provisions related to your case.
In most cases, law enforcement agents are only allowed to search your premises if they obtain a warrant from the court.
If they do so, your criminal defense lawyer can claim that your rights were violated during the arrest to have the criminal charges dismissed.
Don’t hesitate to hire a larceny lawyer if you can afford to do so. A larceny conviction will stay on your record and affect your future activities.
Collateral and Indirect Consequences
Collateral or indirect consequences impact various aspects of a convicted person’s life long after serving their sentences.
Here are some areas of your life that may be negatively affected long-term if the court finds you guilty of grand larceny conviction:
- Professional licenses
- Educational or employment prospects
- Rental and housing applications
- Scholarships and other financial assistance
- Immigration status
- Travel plans
Defeating a Grand Larceny Charge in the U.S.
Defeating a grand larceny charge involves a comprehensive understanding of the legal factors and skillful navigation of the legal process. Thus, people accused of this criminal offense would do well to hire a legal expert to represent them in court.
“What Will Happen if I’m Convicted of a Grand Larceny Charge in the U.S.?”
If you are convicted of grand larceny, you usually have to face prison time, financial penalties, and other long-term consequences that will continue to affect you after your release from the institution.
“How Do I Beat or Lower a Grand Larceny Charge?”
The best way to beat this criminal charge is to dismiss it before it goes to trial.
Say the prosecuting side drops the charges against you. In that case, you could resume living your ordinary life without spending much money and time addressing the situation.
One well-known way defense attorneys argue for the dismissal of the case is by proving that procedure violations have been committed during the acquisition of the prosecuting side’s evidence.
That said, even if the larceny charge wasn’t dismissed, an experienced criminal defense attorney could still help you get acquitted or lower the charges against you.
Affirmative Defenses to Grand Larceny
Say you’ve been charged with grand larceny. There are two affirmative defenses you can use to prove your innocence or lower the charges:
- You can claim and prove that you have a reasonable cause to believe that you are the owner of the alleged stolen property or that the property was legally under your care at the time of the alleged crime. In short, you acted in good faith.
- In some cases, grand larceny occurs by extortion. In this context, extortion happens when another individual forces you to part with a property by threatening to harm or kill you.
These defenses may appear easy to craft and argue in court, especially if you did not commit grand larceny.
In reality, the prosecuting side will seek clear justifications for every specific query regarding your claim of innocence. You will be less likely to win the case if you can’t answer the prosecutors straight and with verifiable evidence.
Therefore, seeking legal advice from competent law offices is wise when facing criminal charges.
If you can’t afford to hire someone from a private law firm, you can seek help from government and nonprofit organizations offering free consultation and, in some cases, representation.
Charged With Grand Larceny in the U.S.?
If you are arrested or the court summons you due to a grand larceny charge, you should first seek legal counsel.
Do not say anything to the police or government agents without the presence of an attorney.
Once your lawyer arrives, you should tell them everything that happened surrounding the alleged crime. Don’t worry. The attorney-client relationship ensures the confidentiality of your conversations.
A skilled defense attorney can help you craft a strong defense and guide you through complex legal procedures until you develop the best possible outcome for your case.
1. Is grand larceny a felony in the U.S.?
Grand larceny is usually considered a felony, while petit larceny is a misdemeanor.
Petit larceny is stealing property valued below the standard required to count as grand theft.
2. How long is a sentence for grand larceny in the U.S.?
The length of prison or jail sentences for grand larceny charges in the U.S. can vary considerably based on several factors, including statutes, the specific details of the crime, the value of the stolen property, the alleged criminal’s record, and whether any aggravating or mitigating factors exist.
That said, for federal cases, the average sentence length for property destruction, theft, and fraud offenders is 24 months.
3. Can grand larceny charges be expunged?
The answer to this question depends on the jurisdiction handling your felony charge. Many states allow you to hide or remove criminal history information from your public record.
This act is often called expungement or sealing, although your state may refer to it differently.
For example, the state of Vermont may expunge the following crimes from your record:
- Most misdemeanors
- Grand larceny
- Criminal mischief
- Felony burglary (not committed in a home)
- Prescription fraud
4. Why do you need an experienced attorney for grand larceny charges?
A criminal defense attorney can do the following for you:
- Collect evidence against you and examine your case to find the evidence that can help dismiss your case.
- Prepare mitigation that may help to get you into a pretrial diversion program or convince the court to place you on probation instead of committing you to prison.
- Find any potential legal defenses to your grand larceny charges if the case goes to trial.
5. How much is the fine for grand larceny in the U.S.?
As shown above, the fine for grand larceny in the U.S. can vary significantly depending on the jurisdiction.
In South Carolina, upon conviction of grand larceny, the individual is guilty of a felony and must be fined at the court’s discretion or imprisoned not more than:
- Five years if the value of the property is more than $2,000 but less than $10,000
- Ten years if the property’s value is $10,000 or more
6. Is grand theft auto a crime in the U.S.?
Yes. Grand theft auto is often considered a felony and deemed a crime when more than $500 to $1,000 is stolen.
In typical cases of conviction, the defendant may have to serve up to one or more years in prison.
- CALCRIM No. 1801. Grand and Petty Theft (Pen. Code, §§ 486, 487-488, 490.2, 491)
- Chapter 5. Larceny [484 – 502.9]
- Laws on Grand Theft
- Title 16 – Crimes and Offenses
- An Overview of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines
- The Three Strikes and You’re Out Law
- Title 18—Crimes and Criminal Procedure
- Code of Virginia
- §2B1.1 – Larceny, Embezzlement, and Other Forms of Theft; Offenses Involving Stolen Property; Property Damage or Destruction; Fraud and Deceit; Forgery; Offenses Involving Altered or Counterfeit Instruments Other Than Counterfeit Bearer Obligation of the United States
- Code of Virginia: Petit larceny
- Grand Larceny in the fourth degree
- Grand larceny in the third degree
- Grand larceny in the second degree
- Total number of larceny thefts reported in the United States in 2021, by state
- Grand Theft
- Quick Facts: Theft, Property Destruction, and Fraud Offenses
- Expungement FAQs
- Title 16 – Crimes and Offenses
- Crimes of Grand Theft Auto