Virginia Grand Larceny, Petit Larceny, Shoplifting, Concealment Laws and Defenses


This article is written by criminal defense attorney Marina Medvin, who is located in Alexandria, Virginia, and Fairfax, Virginia. She represents individuals charged with the crimes described below in Fairfax, Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Falls Church, Vienna, Manassas, and Prince Prince William. Please call (703)870-6868 for a consultation request.

WHAT IS LARCENY?

Larceny is simply the crime of theft. Virginia courts define larceny as the wrongful or fraudulent taking of things of value, belonging to another, without that person or business’ consent, and with the intention to permanently deprive that person or business of the value of the items taken. Grand Larceny is a felony. Petit Larceny is a misdemeanor. They are divided by the value of the items stolen.

MISDEMEANOR LARCENY

To be charged or arrested for misdemeanor Larceny, you must have done one of the following acts:
(1) Larceny of goods or things from a place worth less than $200, or
(2) Larceny of money or things directly off the body of a person worth less than $5
Misdemeanor Larceny is punished under Virginia VA Code Section 18.2-96 as a Class 1 misdemeanor. The maximum punishment for this crime is twelve months in jail with a $2,500.00 fine.

PUNISHMENT ENHANCEMENT FOR SUBSEQUENT MISDEMEANOR LARCENY CONVICTIONS

Second Misdemeanor Larceny Offense: VA Code Section 18.2-104 creates a punishment enhancement for a prior larceny record, mandating a 30 day minimum jail sentence as part of the penalty for a second conviction.

3 Strikes Rule

Third Misdemeanor Larceny Offense: A third misdemeanor larceny conviction is upgraded to a Class 6 Felony, even though the value of the goods stolen is under $200. This charge will also be accompanied by a 30 day minimum jail sentence.

Because of the punishment enhancements for any subsequent larceny convictions, it is important for you to make sure that you are comfortable with your defense and/or plea of guilt to any first larceny offense – as no one really knows what the future might bring.

FELONY LARCENY – GRAND LARCENY

Virginia Felony larceny is known as Grand Larceny, and can be one of three acts:
(1) Larceny of things from a place worth $200 or more, or
(2) Larceny of things from the body of a person worth $5 or more, or
(3) Larceny of a firearm or gun, regardless of the value

Grand larceny is punished by VA Code Section 18.2-95. You face up to 20 years in prison with a conviction.

PENALTY ENHANCEMENT FOR GRAND LARCENY WITH INTENT TO RESELL THE MERCHANDISE

Grand larceny with intent to resell the merchandise carries a minimum prison penalty of 2 years! VA Code Section 18.2-108.01 states that when more than one of the same item is stolen in the course of a grand larceny, that is direct evidence of intent to resell those items.

SHOPLIFTING / CONCEALING MERCHANDISE

Shoplifting is a larceny. The reason why it has its own code section in the law books is that the wording in the law makes it easier to convict someone of shoplifting based on certain conduct explained further below.

Virginia Code Section 18.2-103 separates a felony from a misdemeanor shoplifting charge based on the value of the merchandise involved, with shoplifting of items valued $200.00 or more constituting a felony offense, while taking items valued below that would be a misdemeanor charge.

Shoplifting is defined as the taking merchandise from a store without permission and with the intention of making the merchandise your own without having paid the full purchase price; or simply by defrauding the owner of the value of the goods or merchandise – which means paying less for it than the merchant was asking without the merchant’s permission. Thus, shoplifting can be either walking out with unpaid merchandise, changing price tags or stickers on merchandise, or paying a lesser price for merchandise without negotiating with the owner.

Specifically, the Virginia Code criminalizes the following acts as shoplifting:
(1) purposely hiding, concealing or taking merchandise in a store,
(2) altering the price tag or other price marking on merchandise,
(3) transferring items from one container to another.

CAN I BE DETAINED BY STORE SECURITY IF SUSPECTED OF SHOPLIFTING?

In short, yes. Virginia Law 18.2-105.1 permits a merchant, agent or employee of the merchant, who has probable cause to believe that you shoplifted in violation of § 18.2-95 or § 18.2-96 or § 18.2-103, on the premises of that merchant, may detain you for a period not to exceed one hour pending arrival of a law-enforcement officer.

CHARGING FRIENDS OF THIEVES & ACCOMPLICES

First, any person who was counseling, assisting, aiding or abetting another person who committed a shoplifting offense as per Virginia VA Code Section 18.2-103, is guilty of the exact same crime as the person who actually does the shoplifting under the same Virginia Code Section.

Second, any person who receives, conceals, or hides stolen property from/for someone who stole that property, and knows that it was stolen, can be charged with larceny under Virginia VA Code Section 18.2-108. Furthermore, even in the thief doesn’t get convicted of the larceny, the friend who hid the stolen property can still be found guilty of a larceny of that property! Additionally, even if you knowingly buy stolen property, you can be guilty of a larceny.

Third, any person who assists in the transportation or disposition of stolen property, knowing that it was stolen, is also guilty of larceny. See Moehring v. Com.

Fourth, conspiring, advising, or helping someone in any way to commit a grand larceny, will also be responsible for the grand larceny and will have to serve between 1 and 20 years in prison as punishment for the crime under Virginia VA Code Section 18.2-23.

WHAT EVIDENCE / PROOF WILL BE INTRODUCED IN COURT AGAINST ME?

A witness who saw you with the stolen items might testify against you, a store employee may testify against you, video surveillance will be introduced in court, and the value of the stolen items will be calculated for the judge.

Generally speaking, walking past the point of the cash registers with unpaid merchandise is enough to invoke an inference of intent to steal.

For shoplifting, hiding merchandise while you are still in the store is enough for a conviction in Virginia because it is considered direct evidence of your intent to steal the merchandise or defraud the owner of the sticker price value. The Court explained in the famous case of Welch v. Commonwealth that as long as the item is in the possession or personal control of an unauthorized person, who acts in a manner that is inconsistent with an actual possible purchaser, he can be guilty of larceny without actually leaving the premises of a store.

Proof or evidence of larceny can simply be a person’s unexplained possession of the stolen items. The famous case of Bright v. Commonwealth of Virginia stated that unexplained possession of stolen property permits the courts to make an inference that the owner of the stolen property is the person who committed the larceny of that property.

REDUCING A FELONY LARCENY TO A MISDEMEANOR

Since the value of the items tends to be the reason for a larceny being charged as a felony instead of a misdemeanor, a good lawyer can successfully argue that value in a case is uncertain, or due to other convincing circumstances, a felony should be reduced to a misdemeanor with minimal or no jail time.

POSSESSION OF BURGLARIOUS TOOLS

Possession of burglarious tools may be a more serious offense than the actual crime! While a larceny is either a misdemeanor or a felony, possession of burglarious tools is a Class 5 felony. To be guilty, you need to have in your possession any kind of tools, implements or outfits while intending to commit burglary, robbery or larceny. What’s worse, is that under Virginia VA Code Section 18.2-94, possession of these tools is primary evidence of your intent to commit the underlying larceny crime as well.

UNAUTHORIZED USE OF VEHICLE

Borrowing a vehicle, an animal, boat, or aircraft, without permission, even though you planned to return it and never intended to steal it, can land you with a larceny charge under Virginia VA Code Section 18.2-102. This punishes a temporary deprivation of personal property as grand-larceny or as larceny, depending on the value of the item borrowed. The borrower must have known that he was borrowing the car without permission. Just because consent or permission to use was granted by the owner on a previous occasion, such consent will not be implied in defense of the accused. Anyone who assists or acts as an accomplice will be responsible for the crime as if he or she acted as the principal offender and will be punished as the primary offender.

While normally you cannot be charged with larceny if you plan to return the item you took – BUT this code makes an exception to this general rule for: animals, aircraft, vehicles, boats and vessels. Temporarily borrowing these items amount to larcenies under Virginia law.

Virginia Larceny Statutes

§ 18.2-96. Petit larceny defined; how punished.

Any person who:
1. Commits larceny from the person of another of money or other thing of value of less than $5, or

2. Commits simple larceny not from the person of another of goods and chattels of the value of less than $200, except as provided in subdivision (iii) of § 18.2-95, shall be deemed guilty of petit larceny, which shall be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.

§ 18.2-104. Punishment for conviction of misdemeanor larceny.

When a person is convicted of an offense of larceny or any offense deemed to be or punished as larceny under any provision of the Code, and it is alleged in the warrant, indictment or information on which he is convicted, and admitted, or found by the jury or judge before whom he is tried, that he has been before convicted in the Commonwealth of Virginia or in another jurisdiction for any offense of larceny or any offense deemed or punishable as larceny, or of any substantially similar offense in any other jurisdiction, regardless of whether the prior convictions were misdemeanors, felonies or a combination thereof, he shall be confined in jail not less than thirty days nor more than twelve months; and for a third, or any subsequent offense, he shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony.

§ 18.2-95. Grand larceny defined; how punished.

Any person who (i) commits larceny from the person of another of money or other thing of value of $5 or more, (ii) commits simple larceny not from the person of another of goods and chattels of the value of $200 or more, or (iii) commits simple larceny not from the person of another of any firearm, regardless of the firearm’s value, shall be guilty of grand larceny, punishable by imprisonment in a state correctional facility for not less than one nor more than twenty years or, in the discretion of the jury or court trying the case without a jury, be confined in jail for a period not exceeding twelve months or fined not more than $2,500, either or both.

§ 18.2-108.01. Larceny with intent to sell or distribute; sale of stolen property; penalty.

A. Any person who commits larceny of property with a value of $200 or more with the intent to sell or distribute such property is guilty of a felony punishable by confinement in a state correctional facility for not less than two years nor more than 20 years. The larceny of more than one item of the same product is prima facie evidence of intent to sell or intent to distribute for sale.
B. Any person who sells, attempts to sell or possesses with intent to sell or distribute any stolen property with an aggregate value of $200 or more where he knew or should have known that the property was stolen is guilty of a Class 5 felony.
C. A violation of this section constitutes a separate and distinct offense.

§ 18.2-108. Receiving, etc., stolen goods.

A. If any person buys or receives from another person, or aids in concealing, any stolen goods or other thing, knowing the same to have been stolen, he shall be deemed guilty of larceny thereof, and may be proceeded against, although the principal offender is not convicted.
B. If any person buys or receives any goods or other thing, used in the course of a criminal investigation by law enforcement that such person believes to have been stolen, he shall be deemed guilty of larceny thereof.

§ 18.2-98. Larceny of bank notes, checks, etc., or any book of accounts.

If any person steal any bank note, check, or other writing or paper of value, whether the same represents money and passes as currency, or otherwise, or any book of accounts, for or concerning money or goods due or to be delivered, he shall be deemed guilty of larceny thereof, and may be charged for such larceny under § 18.2-95 or 18.2-96, and if convicted shall receive the same punishment, according to the value of the thing stolen, prescribed for the punishment of the larceny of goods and chattels. The provisions of this section shall be construed to embrace all bank notes and papers of value representing money and passing as currency, whether the same be the issue of this Commonwealth or any other state, or of the United States, or of any corporation, and shall include all other papers of value, of whatever description. In a prosecution under this section, the money due on or secured by the writing, paper or book, and remaining unsatisfied, or which in any event might be collected thereon, or the value of the property or money affected thereby, shall be deemed to be the value of the article stolen.

§ 18.2-103. Concealing or taking possession of merchandise; altering price tags; transferring goods from one container to another; counseling, etc., another in performance of such acts.

Whoever, without authority, with the intention of converting goods or merchandise to his own or another’s use without having paid the full purchase price thereof, or of defrauding the owner of the value of the goods or merchandise, (i) willfully conceals or takes possession of the goods or merchandise of any store or other mercantile establishment, or (ii) alters the price tag or other price marking on such goods or merchandise, or transfers the goods from one container to another, or (iii) counsels, assists, aids or abets another in the performance of any of the above acts, when the value of the goods or merchandise involved in the offense is less than $200, shall be guilty of petit larceny and, when the value of the goods or merchandise involved in the offense is $200 or more, shall be guilty of grand larceny. The willful concealment of goods or merchandise of any store or other mercantile establishment, while still on the premises thereof, shall be prima facie evidence of an intent to convert and defraud the owner thereof out of the value of the goods or merchandise.

§ 18.2-105.1. Detention of suspected shoplifter.

A merchant, agent or employee of the merchant, who has probable cause to believe that a person has shoplifted in violation of § 18.2-95 or § 18.2-96 or § 18.2-103, on the premises of the merchant, may detain such person for a period not to exceed one hour pending arrival of a law-enforcement officer.

§ 18.2-23. Conspiring to trespass or commit larceny.

A. If any person shall conspire, confederate or combine with another or others in the Commonwealth to go upon or remain upon the lands, buildings or premises of another, or any part, portion or area thereof, having knowledge that any of them have been forbidden, either orally or in writing, to do so by the owner, lessee, custodian or other person lawfully in charge thereof, or having knowledge that any of them have been forbidden to do so by a sign or signs posted on such lands, buildings, premises or part, portion or area thereof at a place or places where it or they may reasonably be seen, he shall be deemed guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.
B. If any person shall conspire, confederate or combine with another or others in the Commonwealth to commit larceny or counsel, assist, aid or abet another in the performance of a larceny, where the aggregate value of the goods or merchandise involved is more than $200, he is guilty of a felony punishable by confinement in a state correctional facility for not less than one year nor more than 20 years. The willful concealment of goods or merchandise of any store or other mercantile establishment, while still on the premises thereof, shall be prima facie evidence of an intent to convert and defraud the owner thereof out of the value of the goods or merchandise. A violation of this subsection constitutes a separate and distinct felony.
C. Jurisdiction for the trial of any person charged under this section shall be in the county or city wherein any part of such conspiracy is planned, or in the county or city wherein any act is done toward the consummation of such plan or conspiracy.

§ 19.2-270.1. Use of photographs as evidence in certain larceny and burglary prosecutions.

In any prosecution for larceny under the provisions of §§ 18.2-95, 18.2-96 or § 18.2-98, or for shoplifting under the provisions of § 18.2-103, or for burglary under the provisions of §§ 18.2-89, 18.2-90, 18.2-91 or § 18.2-92, photographs of the goods, merchandise, money or securities alleged to have been taken or converted shall be deemed competent evidence of such goods, merchandise, money or securities and shall be admissible in any proceeding, hearing or trial of the case to the same extent as if such goods, merchandise, money or securities had been introduced as evidence. Such photographs shall bear a written description of the goods, merchandise, money or securities alleged to have been taken or converted, the name of the owner of such goods, merchandise, money or securities and the manner of the identification of same by such owner, or the name of the place wherein the alleged offense occurred, the name of the accused, the name of the arresting or investigating police officer or conservator of the peace, the date of the photograph and the name of the photographer. Such writing shall be made under oath by the arresting or investigating police officer or conservator of the peace, and the photographs identified by the signature of the photographer. Upon the filing of such photograph and writing with the police authority or court holding such goods and merchandise as evidence, such goods or merchandise shall be returned to their owner, or the proprietor or manager of the store or establishment wherein the alleged offense occurred.

§ 18.2-94. Possession of burglarious tools, etc.

If any person have in his possession any tools, implements or outfit, with intent to commit burglary, robbery or larceny, upon conviction thereof he shall be guilty of a Class 5 felony. The possession of such burglarious tools, implements or outfit by any person other than a licensed dealer, shall be prima facie evidence of an intent to commit burglary, robbery or larceny.

§ 18.2-102. Unauthorized use of animal, aircraft, vehicle or boat; consent; accessories or accomplices.

Any person who shall take, drive or use any animal, aircraft, vehicle, boat or vessel, not his own, without the consent of the owner thereof and in the absence of the owner, and with intent temporarily to deprive the owner thereof of his possession thereof, without intent to steal the same, shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony; provided, however, that if the value of such animal, aircraft, vehicle, boat or vessel shall be less than $200, such person shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. The consent of the owner of an animal, aircraft, vehicle, boat or vessel to its taking, driving or using shall not in any case be presumed or implied because of such owner’s consent on a previous occasion to the taking, driving or using of such animal, aircraft, vehicle, boat or vessel by the same or a different person. Any person who assists in, or is a party or accessory to, or an accomplice in, any such unauthorized taking, driving or using shall be subject to the same punishment as if he were the principal offender.

This article is for your personal information only and is not intended as legal advice. Nothing herein shall create an attorney – client relationship. This area of the law is very complex. Every case is different and the information contained herein is general. This information is not intended to be legal advice. Nor is this material intended to replace consultation with a lawyer. Always consult a licensed lawyer for your particular case. Call 703.870.6868 for a consultation.
+