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Larceny: What it is and how it differs from similar crimes

On Behalf of | Mar 25, 2020 | Criminal Defense, Firm News |

Legal terminology used to describe crimes can be confusing. Many laypeople mistakenly use the same terms to describe similar crimes. The law, however, draws distinctions among those terms so that they mean something very different from the point of view of the court. 

One such term that people may misunderstand is larceny. Essentially, it means theft of another person’s property without a confrontation with the owner. However, the definition of larceny can get even more specific. In addition to simply taking the property, as a pickpocket or a shoplifter might do, larceny can also involve riding the property away, as happens with bicycle theft, or leading it away, as might happen with the theft of a pet animal. 

How is larceny different from fraud? 

Larceny involves taking someone’s property outright. Fraud, on the other hand, involves deceptive practices intended to better one’s own position. For example, theft of a company’s funds, e.g., from a safe, would probably qualify as larceny. Embezzlement, however, involves altering financial records to disguise where the money went. Because of the deception involved, embezzlement is a type of fraud and therefore does not qualify as larceny. 

How is larceny different from robbery? 

Larceny is a property crime, while robbery is a violent crime. Unlike larceny, robbery involves a confrontation with the owner of the stolen item(s). A robber uses force or the threat of force to get the owner to give up his or her belongings. Armed robbery is a specific type that involves the use of a weapon to threaten the owner of the property and force him or her to hand it over. 

How is larceny different from burglary? 

Burglary is the unlawful entry onto commercial or residential premises with the intention of committing a crime. A person could potentially commit burglary with the intention of selling drugs, vandalizing the premises or committing a violent crime. 

However, if the purpose of breaking onto the premises was to steal something, a person could theoretically commit both burglary and larceny.