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Virginia Larceny Laws

Virginia Larceny Laws

Virginia Larceny Laws

Larceny is a common charge that causes people to seek the help of a Virginia criminal defense lawyer. It can be a felony or misdemeanor charge depending on several factors we’ll discuss later. However, any criminal charge should be taken seriously. A conviction, even for a misdemeanor where the defendant gets probation or time served, can still affect your ability to access housing, benefits, or education in the future. If you’ve been charged with any kind of larceny or other crime, your best chance at beating the charges is to contact a Virginia criminal attorney today. Don’t try to represent yourself or make a deal without seeking legal counsel first. Here are some frequently asked questions about larceny charges:

What Is Considered Grand Larceny In VA?

Under Virginia law, petty larceny is defined as stealing money or goods of less than $5 off a person, or taking money or goods (not off a person) worth less than $1,000. Grand larceny is defined as taking money or goods worth more than $5 off a person, or taking money or goods (not off a person) valued at more than $1,000, or stealing a firearm of any value. Note that stealing a wallet worth more than $5 can be charged as grand larceny. Aside from shoplifting, grand larceny can also include embezzlement, receiving stolen goods, or obtaining items or money by false pretenses (fraud).

Another Virginia law defines shoplifting to include “concealing or taking possession” of store merchandise, changing price tags on items, or helping another person with the previous two acts. For example, some shoplifters work in teams, with one person distracting store employees while the other or others remove merchandise from the store. The person who distracted a clerk could still be charged with shoplifting even if they didn’t personally take anything from the store. Shoplifting is usually charged as petty larceny, but in some cases the value of the goods may be more than $1,000, making it a grand larceny charge. 

What Should I Do If I’m Accused Of Shoplifting In A Store?

Don’t run, even if the security guards or store personnel seem threatening. Fleeing can give everyone involved in the case the idea that you’re guilty. If this is the first time you’ve been accused of stealing from this particular store and the idea isn’t very expensive, there’s a good chance security won’t contact the police to have you arrested. In some cases they will simply keep the item in question or ask you to pay for it, then give you a warning. If you are arrested, don’t say anything to the police until you have a chance to speak with a Virginia shoplifter lawyer.

How Long Does Petty Theft  Or Petty Larceny Stay On Your Record?

Any criminal conviction in Virginia, including misdemeanors, will stay on your record forever. Some other states allow the convicted individual to apply for expungement after a certain period of time (usually years) has passed, but this option is not available in Virginia. Expungement is only available in limited circumstances. If you were charged but not convicted of a crime, you may be able to get the charges expunged, but this can be a time-consuming and expensive process.

In 2021, Virginia passed legislation called the “Clean Slate Act,” which allows people convicted of crimes to apply for their criminal records to be sealed. This is different from expungement in that the records related to the charge and/or conviction are not removed. They remain on the person’s record forever, but they can only be accessed in very limited situations. These do not include routine background checks run by employers or schools. In this way, sealing records can reduce the effects of a criminal charge or conviction on a person’s later life.

Under this law, which will not go into effect until July of 2025, cases that end in dismissals, acquittals, or nolle prosequi will be automatically sealed, so you don’t need to do anything. (However, you may still want to go through the expungement process, especially if you will be working in a field that requires a high security clearance.) Some misdemeanor convictions will be automatically sealed after a certain amount of time passes. Other misdemeanors, certain class 5 and 6 felonies, and Felony Grand Larceny cases can be sealed if the convicted person files a petition. In this case, you will need to wait seven years and have no new charges for a misdemeanor conviction, or ten years with no new charges for a felony conviction. 

What Class Felony Is Grand Larceny In Virginia?

Grand larceny can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor in Virginia. If a person is charged with grand larceny with intent to sell the stolen item/s, they are usually charged with a class 5 felony. For a felony larceny charge, the maximum punishment if convicted can be up to 20 years (but many people will get less time than that if convicted).

How To Beat A Grand Larceny Charge In VA

The best way to beat a grand larceny charge in Virginia or any other state is to exercise your right to remain silent when you are arrested, and to have an attorney present for any questioning. Ask to speak with a lawyer right away, then say nothing until you have a chance to speak with one. Talking to the police can easily make things worse for you when you go to court, even if you think you’re not saying anything wrong. More than one person has tried to explain to the police why they’re innocent, only to find their words were twisted and used against them by the prosecutor when they went to trial.

Once you’ve been charged, you and your attorney will discuss various defenses you might use at your trial. Which one is right for your case will depend on several factors, including the circumstances of your arrest. Here are some potential defenses your attorney might suggest:

  • Mistaken identity. It’s more common than most people think for the wrong person to be identified by a witness. In fact, one analysis found that in about 80 percent of cases where DNA evidence caused a conviction to be overturned, at least one witness had misidentified the perpetrator. If the larceny case against you rests heavily on a witness’ testimony that they saw you steal something, your lawyer might consider ways to demonstrate that the witness’ memory may not be accurate.
  • The stolen item/s belonged to you. Unless the case involves a one-of-a-kind item, it’s likely that the victim wasn’t the only person who owned whatever was stolen. Many people don’t record serial numbers from their valuables, so your attorney may argue that you were simply found with your own belongings.
  • You paid for the item/s or you planned to. This is often a defense in shoplifting cases. If you bought the item or intended to, no crime occurred.
  • Someone else planted the stolen goods on you or your property. In some cases, your lawyer may argue that you weren’t even aware you were in possession of any stolen property. This is a better argument if the stolen items were found in a place that other people would have had access to.
  • Illegal search and seizure. If you or your property (such as a vehicle, purse, briefcase, or your home) were searched illegally, your lawyer may argue that any stolen items found should not be allowed as evidence in your case.

What Happens If I’m Convicted Of A Larceny Charge?

This depends on the charge and if it’s prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony larceny, as well as your previous history. 

  • Petit larceny and shoplifting are usually charged as misdemeanors, and can carry a penalty of up to 12 months in jail and/or up to a $2,500 fine. However, if it is your first offense, the judge may be lenient and sentence you to probation or a shorter sentence.
  • A second misdemeanor conviction carries a minimum of 30 days in jail, but the judge may suspend some of that time.
  • A Petit Larceny Virginia 3rd Offense gets upgraded to a class 6 felony, and you could receive up to five years in prison.
  • Felony grand larceny can be punished with 1-20 years in prison, so the judge has some leeway in sentencing.
  • It’s helpful to remember that your lawyer’s job isn’t done when the verdict is announced, whether it’s guilty or not. If you are convicted, your attorney can still argue for leniency in your sentencing. For example, they may argue that you have a family who depend on you, that you’re unlikely to commit another crime, etc. A skilled attorney may be able to get your sentence reduced considerably.

What Should I Do If I’ve Been Charged With Larceny Or Shoplifting?

If you are facing any kind of criminal charge, please contact a criminal defense lawyer in Virginia who offers a free consultation, so you can learn more about your defense options. Your defense attorney will be able to answer your questions, make recommendations, and represent you in court. Here at Lugar Law, we’re always happy to offer a free consultation about your case.