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Theft crimes in Virginia are defined partially under the old Common Law inherited from Great Britain and partially by the written law of Virginia. Because of this, many complications can arise in these cases and many defenses may apply in individual cases. Perhaps the most basic form of theft is larceny, which is defined under the Common Law as the unlawful taking and carrying away of someone else's property without consent and with the intent to keep it. In most cases where the value of the stolen property is less than $1,000 in value, the crime committed is called Petit Larceny. This is the misdemeanor for the of the crime, and is punishable by a maximum of 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. There are other more serious circumstances which may aggravate a larceny charge and elevate it to the more serious version of the offense, known as Grand Larceny. This is a felony and is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Starting July 1, 2020, Virginia has given judges the discretion to dismiss a petit larceny or a grand larceny after a period of probation through Va Code Ann. §19.2-303.2. In order to have your case dismissed under this code section your current charge must be your first offense and you must not have any prior felony convictions. You may wonder at this point why you would need a lawyer.
This code section does not guarantee that a judge will dismiss your case if it is your first offense, an attorney will need to argue for that result. Additionally, if a charge is dismissed through this code section it is not eligible for an expungement, meaning that the dismissed charge will stay on your record. In most cases this will not cause an issue in the future, however, your attorney will be able to give you advise on whether another resolution is better for you.
An attorney will need to argue why this option is an appropriate resolution for your case. Judges do not normally dismiss cases in this way often. An attorney familiar with the judges in your court will be able to advise you on the things you can do before court to show the judge that you should be placed on probation for a dismissal.
If the judge does decide that this is an appropriate resolution for your case then there will need to be a finding of guilt. This includes either you pleading guilty or the judge hearing facts from the officer or prosecutor and determining that there is enough to find you guilty. The judge will not formally find you guilty but will instead continue the case for a period of probation. While on probation the judge will require you to not receive any new charges may additional requirements like a theft class, community service, or paying money owed to the store or person stollen from.
If you do not get any new charges during your probationary period and complete everything that the judge requires, then your case will be dismissed. However, if you do not complete everything as instructed, the judge can use your guilty plea to find you guilty at the end of probation.
The following are some of the common circumstances in which a theft crime is elevated to Grand Larceny:Larceny From a Person
Where someone commits a larceny from the person of another of money or other thing of value of $5 or more, it is Grand Larceny. This basically covers pick-pocketing and other similar crimes and means that where the theft occurs directly from another person, the $1,000 limit basically goes down to $5. The reason for this law is that stealing directly from another person is considered to be more dangerous than the average shoplifting case. These laws vary a great deal from state to state and in DC, by way of comparison, pick-pocketing can be charged as the much more serious crime of robbery (theft from a person by force or threat).Larceny of $1,000 or More
By far the most common form of Grand Larceny in Virginia is larceny of money or items of value of $1,000 or more. This is one of the lowest dollar amounts for Grand Larceny in the entire United States and is the result of the amount not having been changed in over thirty years. The Virginia General Assembly can change this limit whenever it wants, but for now, if a person steals anything worth more than $1,000, they have committed a felony in Virginia. Following are a just a few of the many specific rules that apply to Grand Larceny.
First, if there are several people involved in a theft, the aggregate amount can be considered in each case. This means that if two people push a shopping cart full of groceries worth $1,015 out of store together, they can both be charged with Grand Larceny, even though if split, the value would be less than $1,000 each.
Second, a prosecutor must prove intent. The Virginia courts have determined that mere removal of an item from a store is not larceny unless there is actually the intent to steal. So accidentally carrying an item out of a store is not larceny; a person has to actually intend to steal.
Finally, there are many rules regarding the type of evidence that is permitted in court to determine the value of what was stolen. Because it is a primary part of the charge, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the value of stolen goods is more than $1,000 for there to be a Grand Larceny conviction. More specific rules may apply as well. For example, a prosecutor cannot simply show the price tag to the judge, and if a store employee testifies about the value of an item, he or she must provide specific evidence to justify the price.
Many more specific rules apply in Grand Larceny cases. If charged with this offense, be sure to consult an attorney who understands these rules well.Larceny of a Firearm
In Virginia, the theft of a firearm, regardless of value, is Grand Larceny. Because of the serious nature of guns and the consequences involved in their theft, a theft of a gun is always Grand Larceny, even if it is not from a person directly or worth more than $1,000.