Dumfries, Virginia Theft Attorney
Being charged with theft can be a life-changing event. A conviction can affect your life for years, making it more difficult for you to get a job or even a home loan. It can also increase your sentence if you’re ever been convicted of other crimes. That’s why it’s so important to understand both what you’re facing and the possible penalties and defense options. A Dumfries theft lawyer can explain how Virginia law may apply to the facts of your case. More information on other criminal charges in Dumfries here.
Theft Charges in Dumfries
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, the legal term for theft is “larceny.” According to the Virginia Criminal Code, larceny can be either a misdemeanor or a felony:
Petit (Misdemeanor) Larceny (Section 18.2-96)
Any person who:
- Commits larceny from the person of another of money or other thing of value of less than $5, or
- Commits simple larceny not from the person of another of goods and chattels of the value of less than $500, except as provided in subdivision (iii) of Section 2-95, shall be deemed guilty of petit larceny, which shall be punishable as a class 1 misdemeanor.
Grand (Felony) Larceny (Section 18.2-95)
Any person who (i) commits larceny from the person of another of money or other things of value of $5 or more, (ii) commits simple larceny not from the person of another of goods and chattels of the value of $500 or more, or (iii) commits simple larceny not from the person of another of any firearm, regardless of the firearm’s value, shall be guilty of grand larceny, punishable by imprisonment in a state correctional facility for not less than one nor more than twenty years or, in the discretion of the jury or court trying the case without a jury, be confined in jail for a period not exceeding twelve months or fined not more than $2,500, either or both.
In essence, whether larceny is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the value of any items taken and how they are taken. If items are stolen from a place – like taking a laptop from someone’s unattended briefcase – it becomes a felony if the value exceeds $500. When items are stolen from a person – like picking someone’s pocket or snatching their purse – it becomes a felony if the value exceeds $5. In addition, theft of a firearm or weapon is charged as a felony regardless of the value of the item stolen.
Virginia Criminal Code spells out the penalties for both petit larceny and grand larceny:
- Misdemeanor larceny is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a fine of $2,500, or both.
- Felony larceny is punishable by one to 20 years in a state correctional institution, or up to 12 months in jail with a fine of not more than $2,500.
Factor in Dumfries Theft Cases
Several other factors can affect both the type of charge and the severity of the punishment:
- Prior convictions: A second misdemeanor conviction for larceny carries a sentence of no less than 30 days in jail and no more than 12 months ( 18.2-104). A third offense can be charged as a class 6 felony, regardless of the value of the item(s) stolen.
- Intent to sell: Intent to sell the stolen merchandise, valued at over $500, increases the penalty ( 18.2-108.01). Intent to sell is evidenced when more than one of the same item is stolen.
- Possession of “burglarious” tools: While larceny is sometimes a felony, possession of burglarious tools (tools, implements, or outfits that could be used in a burglary) is always charged as a class 6 felony ( 18.2-94). In addition, possession of such tools is considered evidence of the intent to commit larceny.
- Unauthorized use of a vehicle: Taking a vehicle, aircraft, boat, or animal without permission is considered larceny ( 18.2-102) – even if you planned to return it. What’s more, being given permission to use the item on a previous occasion is not a complete defense against larceny.
- Shoplifting: While shoplifting is larceny, it has its own section in the code ( 18.2-103) that makes it possible to convict someone for things like altering price tags or moving items from one container to another, even if nothing was actually taken out of the store. So, swapping price tags to pay a lower price for an item is just as much “shoplifting” as walking out with merchandise that hasn’t been paid for at all. In addition, the law allows shopkeepers to detain someone suspected of shoplifting while waiting for the police to arrive.
- Aiding and abetting: Helping someone commit larceny, hiding or accepting merchandise you know to be stolen, and even giving advice on how to commit larceny are considered to be larceny ( 18.2-103) themselves. In other words, telling someone how to get away with shoplifting is considered to be the same crime as actually doing the shoplifting.
Defenses Against Larceny Charges in Dumfries
There are several possible defenses against a charge of larceny:
Claim of right or ownership
One possible defense against larceny charges is that you thought the property was yours or that you had a right to it: “I thought it was my son’s bike, and I was just taking it home.” The challenge is to provide enough evidence to convince a trier of fact.
Intent to borrow
One fairly common defense is to claim that it was borrowing, not stealing. Witnesses who can testify that you intended to return the item can be an important part of this defense.
You can’t be guilty of theft if the owner of the property consented. One possible example would be letting a friend borrow a car, and then reporting it stolen when he was late returning it. The challenge, as with most defenses, is to convince the trier of fact that this is what happened.
Call A Dumfries Theft Lawyer Today
If you’ve been charged with theft in the Commonwealth of Virginia, it’s important to hire a Dumfries theft attorney who understands the plausible defenses to a larceny charge and has a proven track record of successful outcomes. Our friendly team is standing by to help, so be sure to call in and receive your free initial consultation today.