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What Are the Different Types of Larceny Defense?

Legal systems differentiate between grand larceny, which might involve stealing a car, and petty larceny, which is the theft of something of lesser value.
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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 19 August 2014
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Larceny is most often described as the taking of one's property with the intention of keeping that property, or depriving the owner, permanently. The exact definition may vary slightly from one jurisdiction to the other. Determining a good larceny defense involves careful consideration of this definition, and finding out where it does not fit the specific situation. Though no defense strategy is 100 percent effective, some are more effective than others.

A very effective larceny defense is that the accused is actually the owner of the property. This may be difficult to prove, simply because if the facts were not in question there would likely not be a prosecution. Despite this difficulty, if the larceny defense strategy can convince a judge or jury the accused owns the property, an acquittal is likely guaranteed. In some cases, the charges may even be dropped before it gets to the point of a trial.

Another strategy that may be used in some larceny defense situations is the possibility that the property was not owned by the alleged victim. If the property was not owned by that person, then the accused to did not deprive that person of that property. The question may then become one of who did own the property. Of course, that question is one for the prosecution to adequately answer.

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If these defenses do not work because the victim and ownership are clearly established, another larceny defense may involve around the question of the permanent deprivation. In other words, if the theft was only meant to temporarily deprive the owner on a temporary basis, the charges could be reduced. While this will still involve a penalty, the charge may even be downgraded from felony to a misdemeanor.

Another strategy defense lawyers may use is one which questions the actual value of the property. Grand larceny, for example, may be for property valued at more than $500 US Dollars (USD) or $1,000 USD, or some other amount, depending on the jurisdiction. If the value is less than those amounts, it may be called petty larceny or some other related term. The penalties are not as severe for petty larceny, when compared to grand larceny.

Though not a true larceny defense, it may also be possible for a defense attorney to strike a deal if his or her client confesses. Perhaps a prosecutor may agree to expunge the record after a certain period of time or recommend a lighter sentence, in exchange for not having to go through the expense and frustration of a trial. In the end, if the crime was committed, this could be the best option for a defendant.

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