Larceny is the unlawful taking and carrying away the property of another with the intent to permanently deprive them of it. For comparison, robbery is larceny + the use of force. Larceny can take many forms; for example, a person commits “larceny from the person” if they steal something that is carried on the person (such as a pickpocket), and “larceny from a building” if the property was secured by its presence in a building (such as goods in a warehouse or valuables in a locked room). “Shoplifting” is a special form of larceny carried out in a retail establishment, and is treated somewhat differently from other larcenies.
A common form of larceny is larceny by check. People often find themselves charged with larceny by check when they write a check and the associated bank account does not have sufficient funds to cover the amount. However, in order for a person to be convicted of larceny by check, the prosecution must be able to prove that the accused knew there were insufficient funds to cover the check, and did it anyway with the intent to defraud the bank or the person to whom the check was written.
Embezzlement is a form of larceny where a person has been entrusted with possession of another’s property and has taken, hidden, or sold that property for their own use without the owner’s consent. For example, if you’ve given a family member a power of attorney to manage your finances and you suspect they’ve been helping themselves to some of your money, they might be guilty of embezzling from you.
There are several potential defenses to a larceny charge. For example, the prosecution might not be able to prove an intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property. Borrowing a car without permission, even joyriding, does not amount to larceny if you intend to return the car. Accidentally disposing of something that isn’t yours, such as throwing away something that appeared to be waste while cleaning out a friend’s refrigerator, is not larceny. Taking something you mistakenly thought was yours is not larceny. Another possible defense is that the property is of a type not subject to larceny, like wild animals.
Many forms of larceny fall under Massachusetts General Laws chapter 266 section 30, which makes theft of property below a certain value a misdemeanor and above a certain value a felony. As of April 13, 2018, the threshold for felony larceny was raised from $250 to $1,200. For felony larceny, (where the stolen property is either a firearm or valued above $1,200), the punishment could be as much as 5 years in state prison or 2 years in jail and a fine of up to $25,000. For misdemeanor larceny, (the property is not a firearm and is valued at less than $1,200), the punishment could be as much as a year in jail or by fine of up to $1,500. These are the maximum allowable punishments for larceny under this statute, but judges have discretion to grant a more lenient sentence depending on the circumstances of the larceny and the convicted person’s criminal history. A convicted person may earn a harsher punishment for certain circumstances, such as committing larceny against a person aged 65 or older.
If you need counsel for a larceny case in Massachusetts, give us a call at 617-214-1976 to schedule a free consultation with one of our criminal defense attorneys.