A larceny charge is a formal accusation of a type of theft. It means a person is accused of taking someone else’s personal property without his permission. The laws regarding larceny charges may vary, however, depending on the jurisdiction. There are other types of theft charges that are not considered larceny.
A person commits larceny by stealing someone else’s property. This means he takes physical control or possession of it. For example, if a criminal grabs a person's purse out of a shopping cart and runs away with it, many jurisdictions consider that larceny because it involves three things: taking control of another’s property, taking the property without permission, and carrying it out of that person’s possession.
Most places have precise rules for what can and cannot be considered larceny. For example, a criminal may grab a purse that was unattended but get caught before he could walk away with it. In such a case, he may not receive a larceny charge because he did not take it away. The same goes for a criminal who knocks a wallet out of his victim’s hands but fails to pick it up and run away with it. He may not be charged with larceny.
In some cases, the crime an individual is charged with depends on the force used in the theft. Violent thefts are not considered larceny in some places. For example, shoplifting is considered larceny in many places, but hitting a victim with a weapon and stealing his personal possessions might be considered robbery instead. In such a case, the penalty for robbery would usually be more severe than the penalty for a larceny charge.
Intent is also important when it comes to a larceny charge. In many places, the thief must have intent to keep the victim's property permanently, sell it, or otherwise dispose of it. This does not include cases in which an individual takes someone else’s property because he believes it to be his. If, for example, an individual picks up another person’s wallet and carries it away because it looks like one he owns, this would not be considered larceny.
Some places have different laws and penalties for different types of larceny charges. For example, the theft of a small amount of money or property with a low monetary value might require a criminal to spend a few weeks in jail. Stealing a large amount of money or property that has a high monetary value may be considered grand larceny. In some places, people convicted of grand larceny may spend years in jail.