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Are you or someone you know concerned about a petty larceny charge in Virginia?

But what is petty larceny, and what impact will it have on you? Understanding the law can be complicated, which is why it’s important to understand what constitutes petty larceny in Virginia law. It’s also useful to know the possible penalties.

If you have a petty larceny charge against you, it’s important to be aware of your rights. Discover how a defense attorney may help if you’re in this situation. With the right guidance, you can work to get a better outcome for your case.

Learn more about Virginia’s laws on petty larceny and how hiring attorneys who specialize in criminal defense may help by exploring our resources today!

What Is Petty Larceny?

In Virginia, stealing is a serious offense. Larceny (theft) is the illegal removal of someone else’s property with the intention to keep it and never return it.

Put simply, if you take something from somebody else and don’t plan on giving it back, you risk facing severe repercussions under the Virginia Code 18.2-96.

Types of Petty Larceny

According to state regulations, petty larceny – or “petit larceny” as it is frequently referred to – is a criminal offense. It falls into different categories as follows:

Petit Larceny From the Person

Stealing under $5 of money or property from another individual is classified as petit larceny, an offense that can lead to serious penalties.

Commonly referred to as “pickpocketing,” theft from an individual. It can be prosecuted as a Class 1 misdemeanor. However, if the stolen items exceed $5 in value, it becomes a felony charge.

Petit Larceny Based on the Property’s Value

When the worth of pilfered items is less than $1000, it’s recognized as “shoplifting,” and legally known as larceny.

Should someone pilfer goods valued at less than $1000, they may be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. However, if the stolen items are worth at least $1000, then it is punishable as a felony offense.

Penalties for Petty Larceny

If someone is found guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor, they will be subjected to the following penalties:

  • A jail sentence of up to 12 months
  • A fine of up to $2,500

Examples of Virginia Petty Larceny Cases

Are you curious about what constitutes petty larceny in Virginia? Here are some examples of Class 1 Misdemeanor offenses under Virginia Code 18.2-96 that can be brought up for a petty larceny charge:

  • Taking $4 out of a person’s purse while walking on the sidewalk
  • Taking a pen valued at $3 out of a person’s jacket
  • Taking any type of merchandise from a retail store valued at $200
  • Taking $300 from a cash register in a store
  • Breaking into a coin-operated machine and taking $10 worth of quarters
  • Taking jewelry valued at $400 from a neighbor’s home

From shoplifting to picking pockets, many types of offenses can lead to petty larceny charges. If you are dealing with such a situation, contact a trusted Virginia petty larceny defense attorney right away for the help and advice that you need.

How Can a VA Defense Attorney Help?

Immediately contact a seasoned criminal defense attorney if you have been accused of larceny or another related crime.

Larceny charges can negatively affect future employment opportunities, the ability to qualify for housing, and even one’s immigration status. An experienced lawyer will be able to thoroughly discuss one’s options with them.

A lawyer can help you if you have been accused of stealing. They may use different kinds of defenses to contest the accusation. These can include:

Not Taking the Property

The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you had the intention of keeping an item after taking it. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean your intentions were to steal. Your defense attorney might be able to argue that while you kept the item in your pocket, it was with only the intent of eventually paying for it.

Lack of Intent

A defense attorney can demonstrate evidence to prove that you did not have the intention of stealing the property. For example, you took a bag that resembles yours in every way. This action would be thought of as an accidental taking and it could exempt you from larceny charges.


A petit larceny is an illegal act that only applies when permission from the rightful owner of a property has not been obtained. If you had the right to take something based on your agreement with someone who reported it, then there may not be any cause for guilt.

An example is if you received a loan from the complainant while under an agreement to pay them back within a designated period and they file petit larceny charges against you before being repaid. The charges may be dismissed due to the initial consent between both parties.

Mistaken Identity

Masking their identity, a thief might make it difficult for the victim to point out who the real perpetrator is. This might mean you have been accused of being at fault.

If you were present at the scene of a crime, connected to the real perpetrator in any way, or simply resemble them, then you may be accused of petit larceny. In this case, your lawyer can attempt to prove that these accusations are because of mistaken identity.

Good Faith

If you acted with genuine conviction that the property was yours, then a jury might be persuaded to dismiss your petit larceny charges.

The attorney can also advocate that the complainant may have given you their property, but due to miscommunication, they are trying to accuse you wrongfully of petit larceny.

Looking for a Defense Attorney?

Petty larceny is a crime that can have serious consequences. Knowing the answer to “what is petty larceny” and how it applies under Virginia law is important to protect yourself from any potential charges or convictions.

If you find yourself facing such accusations, contact an experienced VA defense attorney right away who will be able to provide guidance on your options and use different types of legal defenses to contest the charge. Don’t take chances when it comes to petty larceny; speak to our team today.

Areas of Practice

  • Criminal Law
  • Traffic Violations
  • Reckless Driving
  • Felonies and Misdemeanors

Bar Admissions

  • Virginia, 1985
  • District of Columbia, 1987
  • U.S. District Court Eastern District of Virginia, 1985
  • U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, 1987
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 4th Circuit, 1985
  • U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Federal Claims


  • University of Virginia School of Law, Charlottesville, Virginia
    • J.D. - 1985
  • Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    • B.A. magna cum laude - 1982
    • Honors: Phi Beta Kappa
    • Major: Economics & Philosophy
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