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Degrees of Larceny

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J10V: Online Criminal Investigation
Lesson 7
Mandatory Assignment 8_08

The term larceny is believed to originate from the Anglo-French word Larecin, which means theft, and its first known use was in the mid 15th century. The definition, as defined by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, is “the unlawful taking of personal property with intent to deprive the rightful owner of it permanently.”

In order to have committed the crime of larceny, or theft as it is more commonly referred to; there are five components that usually have to be met. The offender must “take” an item and have possession of said item, if only momentarily. Even if you come across an item on the ground or left somewhere and do not attempt turn it in or find the owner you could still be fulfilling the requirement of the taking component of larceny. The item being taken must be carried away; simply knocking something out of another persons hand does not constitute larceny. The property being taken has to be personal property. The item has to belong to another individual. There has to be intent to deprive the rightful owner of their possession of the property.

Larceny is commonly divided into two degrees in most states: grand larceny and petty larceny. Most states that utilize these degrees also use them to determine weather or not the crime is a felony or misdemeanor while some others go by the value of the property taken. The use of the degrees of larceny, referred to as theft at the time, began in 1275 in an English statue. The statute made the punishment for grand larceny death and the punishment for petit larceny forfeiture of property to the crown and whipping. The determining value between grand and petit was if the property taken was greater than the price of a sheep, or around twelve pence.

Grand larceny and petty larceny are determined by the monetary value of the property that was taken. Since there are differences in the monetary value from one jurisdiction to another, what would be considered grand larceny one state may be petty larceny in another. For example, in Florida it is considered grand theft when the property taken is valued at $300 or more, whereas in New York it is considered grand larceny when the value of the property taken exceeds $1,000. From the previous example it can be seen that if an offender takes something valued at $500; in New York they would be coming petty larceny but in Florida it would be considered grand theft. Using the same two states, when it come to petty larceny/theft, in New York “a person is guilty of petty larceny when he steals property.” But in Florida in order to have committed petty theft, the amount taken must be valued at between $100 and $300.

Not only does the amount needed to commit the crimes vary, but the punishments imposed do also. In most states the crimes of grand and petty larceny are divided into degrees within themselves allowing for jurisdictions to further break down punishments and amounts needed.

Berg, B. L. (2008). Criminal investigation. (4th ed., pp. 320-321). New York: McGraw Hill., retrieved 28 Jan 2012, retrieved 28 Jan 2012$$PEN155.30$$@TXPEN0155.30+&LIST=SEA5+&BROWSER=EXPLORER+&TOKEN=58487128+&TARGET=VIEW, retrieved 28 Jan 2012, retrieved 28 Jan 2012

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