This is the latest entry in BeenVerified’s legal term library designed to help you better understand public record information, criminal records and related terminology. The information in this article is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
Larceny is a fancy word for theft. Dictionary.com defines it as “the wrongful taking and carrying away of the personal goods of another from his or her possession with intent to convert them to the taker’s own use.” That’s right, we’re talking here about good old-fashioned thieving this week on the blog. But what’s the difference between grand and petty larceny? And will these nasty words remain on a convicted person’s public record? Read on to find out.
In most jurisdictions larceny is considered an exact synonym for theft, and some areas have dropped the pretension and simply now call it “theft,” including grand theft and petty theft. The word larceny originates from an Anglo-Norman word larcin, which simply means “theft.” It also shows just how long people have been carrying off other people’s goods illegally and getting busted for it.
Theft should be differentiated from its slightly uglier cousins, including burglary and robbery, both of the latter include an element of force or threat, compounding the basic theft. As for larceny, one simply must take away another person’s property with the intention of denying the original owner what is rightfully hers or his on a permanent basis, according to TransLegal.
The most common question when it comes to larceny is: “Are we talking grand larceny or petty larceny?” We’d love to give you a clear-cut answer, but like many entries on Legal Term Tuesday, it all comes down to the state. Broadly speaking, Nolo.com notes that most theft charges have an upper limit between $500-$1000, where petty larceny becomes grand larceny. However, in some states, theft of specific types of property, such as a car, can also qualify automatically as grand larceny, regardless of the value.
Common types of petty larceny include shoplifting for most smaller items, or even switching price tags between items in order to pay a lesser amount. Other classic petty theft crimes including doing a runner at a restaurant or gas station or eating an item at a grocery store and not paying for it. While petty theft is typically classified as a misdemeanor, felony charges can await repeat offenders, according to Diffen.com.
In addition to stealing a car, grand larceny examples include shoplifting at a luxury priced store, stealing someone’s identity or credit card theft, according to Geoffrey G Nathan.
Any type of larceny conviction will likely remain on an individual’s public record unless that record is expunged.