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Virginia Criminal Law: What is the difference between Petit Larceny and Grand Larceny?

Virginia, like most other states, makes a distinction in it’s criminal code between stealing tee shirt and stealing a laptop.  Both are considered a larceny, but the corresponding penalties are drastically different.  An understanding the crime you are charged with and the range of potential punishment is necessary when crafting a defense or deciding whether or not to accept a plea offer.

Criminal laws in Virginia are set out in the Code of Virginia, primarily in Title 18.2.  Section 18.2-96 of the Code of Virginia defines petit larceny (often called “petty larceny”) as stealing money or another item that has a value less than $5 from the person of another; or stealing money or another item that has value less than $200 not from the person of another.  A first offense conviction of petit larceny is punished as a Class 1 misdemeanor that carries a punishment of up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500, either or both.  A second offense conviction raises the range of confinement to 30 days – 12 months.  A third or subsequent theft offense increases the crime to a Class 6 felony, punishable by a maximum of five years imprisonment.

Section 18.2-95 of the Code of Virginia defines grand larceny as stealing money or another item that has a value of $5 or more from the person of another; or stealing money or another item that has value of $200 or more not from the person of another; or stealing any type of firearm.  Grand Larceny is commonly referred to as an unclassified felony.  This means that the punishment for the crime is specifically outlined in the Virginia Code and does not conform to one of the six general felony classifications.  The penalty for grand larceny is 1 – 20 years imprisonment with the judge or jury having the discretion to impose a lesser sentence.

Whether or not the crime is charged as Petit or Grand Larceny hinges largely on the value of the item(s) involved.  If you have been charged with any form of larceny, you should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your rights and options.

* Attorney Bugg is admitted to practice law before the courts of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the District of Columbia, the federal courts of the Eastern District of Virginia, and the United States Supreme Court.  This blog site is intended to give for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed as formal legal advice and should not be interpreted to create a lawyer/client relationship. 

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