Larceny Defense in Virginia and the Impact of Prior Convictions


A theft in Virginia operates as the crime of larceny. Larceny is classified in two ways. First, there is petit larceny when the value of stolen property is between $5 and $200. If the property is taken directly from a victim, and its value is less than $5, the crime is still classified as petit larceny. A person commits grand larceny when the value of the property stolen is more than $200. If property valued at more than $5 is taken directly from somebody’s person, that act constitutes grand larceny. If a firearm of any value is stolen, the perpetrator will be charged with grand larceny.


Petit larceny is a class 1 misdemeanor, and it’s punishable by up to (under 365 days) days in jail and a fine not to exceed $2,500. Grand larceny is a felony. It’s punishable by not less than one year and not more than 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.

The impact of multiple petty larceny convictions within Virginia

If a person is convicted of more than one petty larceny charge in Virginia or anywhere else, he or she can be sentenced to a minimum of 30 to 364 days in jail and a fine not to exceed $2,500. A third conviction is charged as a class 6 felony. It’s punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.

Concealment (Shoplifting)

Retail theft is a form of larceny in Virginia. Along with the criminal penalties, the retailer can seek civil penalties (restitution costs) that consist of:

  • Whichever is the greater of twice the retail price or $50
  • No more than $350
  • Court costs and attorney fees not to exceed $150

Defenses to larceny charges

First and foremost, the prosecution has the burden of proof in a larceny case. It must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Aside from the burden of proof, there are several viable defenses to a larceny charge that begin with effective cross examination of the purported victim. Three of the most common are:

  • Disputed value
  • Lack of intent like mistake or accident
  • Consent when the defendant thought there was a valid reason for taking the property

Return of property

The return of stolen property generally doesn’t constitute a defense to larceny, but a defendant might be able to establish intent to return the property at the time that it was taken. He or she must have had the ability to do so. The defense would be that the defendant borrowed the property.

Both prosecutors and judges have considerable discretion in larceny cases. An attorney representing a defendant on a grand larceny charge might be able to have it reduced to petit larceny. A first offender who is guilty of larceny might be eligible for alternative sentencing that can result in the charge being dismissed. A larceny conviction might stay with a person for life. Effective defense counsel is critical in any larceny prosecution.

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