What is Grand Larceny?

Felicia Dye

An average person may view stealing as clear-cut wrongdoing. The law, however, does not view it that way. There are various types of stealing offenses, and grand larceny is one of them. This offense takes into consideration the value of the property that illegally is taken and the intent of the perpetrator.

A theft must meet a certain value-threshold to be considered grand larceny.
A theft must meet a certain value-threshold to be considered grand larceny.

Grand larceny generally is defined as the theft of property exceeding a certain value. Property can refer to many things including cash, jewelry, or electronics. If a person steals multiple items during an act of theft, the value usually will be assessed collectively instead of individually.

A grand larceny conviction could result in a prison sentence.
A grand larceny conviction could result in a prison sentence.

This means that although the items may be cheap, together they can constitute larceny. A good example of this is the theft of a compact disk (CD) case. If there are 25 CDs inside, the value of each and the value of the case they were in are added together, making it very possible to meet the threshold.

The value that constitutes grand larceny can vary from one state to another. Some states do not have this type of larceny offense. Those that do enforce larceny laws generally have a lower category known as petty larceny, which applies to theft of property below the value of other larceny charges. For example, if a state sets $500 US Dollars (USD) as the amount that constitutes grand larceny, then theft of property valued at $498 USD would be petty larceny.

Normally, the value of items that are stolen is not based on the purchase value. It is instead based on the fair-market value which determines how much something was worth when it was taken. In many cases, items depreciate. A CD that is purchased at $20 USD normally is not worth that amount six months later. In some cases, however, the value may appreciate above the purchase price, such as with art.

A person normally cannot be convicted of grand larceny if he did not intend to keep the stolen items. This means that even if a person takes an item without permission that meets the value to constitute this crime, he will be acquitted if he can prove he intended to return it at some future date. A good example of this is an employee of a lawn service who takes equipment to do personal jobs.

Grand larceny is derived from the English common law system. In previous centuries, the crime was considered much more severe than it currently is. Today, however, it generally is considered to be a felony. This means that conviction can result in a prison sentence, but that does not always happen.

The concept of grand larceny derives from England's common law system.
The concept of grand larceny derives from England's common law system.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


@cougars: White collar crime and theft cause more harm and damages than violent crime. While violent crime seems more severe at first, the repercussions of white collar crime end up affecting more people and destroying more lives. I wouldn't say that $400 would do this, but I just wanted to point out that violence isn't the only crime that affects people.

@Glasshouse: While three strikes probably could use reform, one is still responsible for what one does even under the influence of alcohol. If i get drunk and kill someone but don't remember it, can I get away with it? no. so why do you want him to be granted amnesty for this? I don't think 25 to life should be the answer, but nor should be a slap on the wrist. the state is trying to hold him accountable.


I agree with both comments posted above. A strike should be given for rapists or murderers, people that do home invasions and terrorize others in the community repeatedly. A strike should not be for a drug addict possessing their illegal substance or the guy who steals a slice of pizza because he's hungry when he's drunk and doesn't remember it! -former felon chic (now reformed)


@ Cougars- I agree that the three strikes law is seriously flawed. I have a family member in California that is going through the ringer because of the three strikes law. He is up for the three strikes law for stealing a bike off a lawn while he was drunk. He rode the bike home and left it out in front of his house. The courts are trying to lock him up for 25-life.

I agree that he is an idiot, but to lock someone up for the rest of his life for a bicycle is lunacy. He didn't try to sell the bike...heck he didn't even remember taking the bike. Maybe a year or two is a harsh penalty, but life is a little much. Especially since it had been ten years since his previous felonies.


In California, grand theft is now larceny. The threshold for theft to be considered larceny is $400 dollars. In the state of California, larceny is a felony and can count as a third strike. I find this to be an insane law. The fact that a $401 dollar theft can lead to life in prison is insane. I believe that the three strikes law should only be applied to violent offenders.

Post your comments
Forgot password?