Larceny has two different, but related, meanings. Commonly, larceny refers to theft and is the unlawful taking or carrying away of another person’s property. Legally, larceny is sometimes distinguished from theft by a monetary threshold, usually $500. The unlawful taking of an amount less than $500 is considered theft, while the unlawful taking of a larger amount is considered larceny. In addition, jurisdictions may have different degrees of larceny. Petty larceny generally refers to thefts of smaller amounts of money, while grand larceny refers to takings of larger amounts of money, but the monetary distinctions that trigger grand larceny or petty larceny designations vary by jurisdiction.
There are four elements to a larceny charge. First, there has to be a taking of the property. However, a taking does not necessarily mean that the property has actually been removed; oftentimes, exercising control over the property is sufficient to meet the unlawful taking and carrying away element of larceny. Second, the property has to belong to someone other than the taker. The third element is that the owner did not consent to the property being taken. Finally, the actor’s intention must be to permanently deprive the owner of the property.
While larceny may seem like a straight-forward crime, it can actually be somewhat complex to prove that it occurred. For example, many law enforcement agencies are reluctant to become involved in any larceny allegations that could also be classified as property disputes. Therefore, someone might not be charged with larceny if the victim is a relative or a roommate. In addition, it can be difficult to prove larceny if the property owner ever gave permission for the taker to exercise control over the property, unless there is some proof that the use was intended to be for a specific duration. However, when there is an unlawful taking of property, it is usually not difficult to prove that the intent was to permanently deprive the owner of the property.