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A lot of people aren’t sure about the specific meanings of certain legal or criminal terms, especially those that sometimes seem to be used interchangeably, like larceny vs theft. However, when it comes to theft vs larceny, there is a clear distinction. So, if you’re wondering about what is larceny and theft, this guide will cover all you need to know.

What is Larceny?

Let’s start off our larceny vs theft guide with a closer look at larceny. Larceny is the term given when someone takes the property of another person or entity unlawfully. In general, larceny is simply a type of theft, with specific elements that must be met for it to qualify as “Larceny”. Here are the main elements to watch out for:

  • Taking and carrying away – In terms of larceny vs theft, larceny usually involves someone physically taking an item or piece of property from another person or group.
  • Personal property of another – The term “Larceny” is usually used in situations where a physical piece of property is taken, rather than something digital or immaterial.
  • Without consent – For a crime to count as larceny, the property needs to have been stolen without the consent or permission of the owner.
  • With the intent to permanently deprive the owner – The ultimate aim of larceny is to take something away from an owner on a permanent basis.

Common examples of larceny may include someone shoplifting food from a store, pickpocketing a wallet from a person in the street, or stealing a bicycle that was left outside a home.

theft vs larceny

What Is Theft?

To understand what is larceny or theft, we also need to know how theft is defined. Theft is a very broad and general term for all sorts of stealing, which can include the stealing of physical items, as well as identity theft, grand theft auto, theft of a business’s intellectual property, and so on.

Just like larceny, theft has several key elements:

  • Unlawful taking – Theft must involve the unlawful stealing or taking of something from another person or entity, like a group or business.
  • Personal property, services, etc. – While larceny is primarily concerned with physical items, theft can also include stealing services, identities, and so on.
  • Without the owner’s consent – Like larceny, theft only concerns situations where something was taken without consent from the owner.
  • With the intent to permanently deprive the owner – Again, like larceny, theft must always be with the ultimate intent of taking something from the owner permanently.

Some common examples of theft may include the burglary of a home, a robbery of a business, or embezzlement of funds.

what is larceny theft

Larceny vs. Theft: What is the Difference

When we look at the overall definitions and elements of theft vs larceny, there are lots of similarities. However, every criminal defense attorney understands the difference, and it’s important to know what separates larceny from other forms of theft:

  • In general, larceny is legally defined in most locations as a form of theft. Theft is a broader term that encompasses different types of stealing, while larceny is concerned with the stealing of physical property from its owner.
  • There are also jurisdictional differences between larceny and theft. Some jurisdictions may treat larceny and theft the same way, but others may have slightly different definitions and interpretations, which could lead to different punishments.
  • Following on from the previous point, larceny may have different punishments compared to various other forms of theft. In general, given that theft is a broader term, it can lead to a much wider range of punishments and sentences.
  • Given the similarities between theft and larceny, it’s common for confusion to occur when dealing with these kinds of cases. For example, an accused individual may want to understand their employee rights when accused of theft and how those rights differ in cases of larceny. This is why it’s vital for defendants to have access to legal aid.

How Does California Define Larceny and Theft?

In general, the state of California uses the terms theft and larceny interchangeably. Crimes that involve stealing property from others can be categorized as either theft or larceny, and this can cause confusion. A Los Angeles Theft Crimes Lawyer can help defendants understand the details of their case when facing larceny charges regarding stolen items or the theft of property.

As we can see, understanding the intricacies between a theft charge or larceny criminal charges isn’t always easy. There’s a lot of confusion, especially as states can have different definitions and approaches to larceny and theft. If you’ve been charged with either crime, a criminal defense attorney can help. Contact us for a free consultation.

Shaheen Manshoory