Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Larceny Definition:

A criminal offence now more commonly referred to as theft, covering the unlawful or fraudulent removal of another's property without the owner's consent.

Related Terms: Theft, Shoplifting, Animus, Steal, Robbery

An old English criminal and common law offence covering the unlawful or fraudulent removal or stealing of another's property without the owner's consent. However, the term continues in many American jurisdictions.

The offence of theft now covers most cases of larceny even though larceny is wider than theft as it includes the taking of property of another person by whatever means (by theft, overtly , by fraud, by trickery, etc.) if an intent exists to convert that property to one's own use against the wishes of the owner.

At one time, the common law distinguished between simple or petit larceny (theft) and grand, compound, mixed or aggravated larceny, the latter involving theft "which also includes in it the aggravation of taking from one's house or person".1

In the United States, the offence of larceny still remains such as this definition taken from the California Penal Code, ¶484:

"Every person who shall feloniously steal, take, carry, lead, or drive away the personal property of another, or who shall fraudulently appropriate property which has been entrusted to him or her, or who shall knowingly and designedly, by any false or fraudulent representation or pretense, defraud any other person of money, labor or real or personal property, or who causes or procures others to report falsely of his or her wealth or mercantile character and by thus imposing upon any person, obtains credit and thereby fraudulently gets or obtains possession of money, or property or obtains the labor or service of another, is guilty of theft."2

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