Virginia Petty Theft and Larceny Laws

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Defining Theft Under Virginia Law

Virginia law simply refers to all theft and theft-related crimes as “larceny,” and provides no general definition of the term. It’s safe to say that theft in Virginia can be defined as the unlawful taking of property that belongs to someone else, done with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property. And Virginia criminal statutes do define some very specific theft-related offenses, including: 

  • larceny of certain animals and poultry (Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-97.)
  • larceny of bank notes and checks (§ 18.2-98.)
  • unauthorized use of an animal, aircraft, vehicle, or boat (§ 18.2-102.)
  • concealing or taking possession of merchandise (shoplifting) (§ 18.2-103.)
  • theft or destruction of public records (§ 18.2-107.)
  • receiving stolen goods (§ 18.2-108.)
  • embezzlement (§ 18.2-111.)

Classification of Theft Offenses and Penalties in VA

Virginia classifies larceny offenses according to the value of the property involved -- or, in some circumstances, by the type of property taken. This classification scheme is similar to those of other states. Let’s start by taking a closer look at each level of theft or larceny under Virginia law in turn, beginning with petit larceny (or petty theft), which is the lowest level of theft under Virginia law.

Petit Larceny. Defined as the theft of property or services valued at less than $200, or the theft of property valued at less than $5 when taken directly from the person of another.

Petit larceny is classified as a class 1 misdemeanor under Virginia law (Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-96.), punishable by confinement in jail for not more than 12 months, a fine of not more than $2,500, or both. (§ 18.2-11(a).)

Grand Larceny. Grand larceny in Virginia occurs when a person commits larceny and:

  •  the value of property or services stolen is over $200
  • the property is valued at $5 or more and is taken from the person of another, or
  • the property stolen is a firearm of any dollar value. (§ 18.2-95.)  

Grand larceny in Virginia is usually punishable as a felony, which involves imprisonment in a state correctional facility for at least one year but for not more than 20 years. Virginia law also gives juries and judges the discretion to punish grand larceny as a misdemeanor. This situation might occur, for instance, if the offender has no criminal record and the value of the property stolen is valued at only slightly more than $200. If grand larceny is punished as a misdemeanor in this type of situation, then the offender will be confined in jail for no more than 12 months, be ordered to pay a fine of not more than $2,500, or both. (§ 18.2-95.)

Civil Penalties for Theft in Virginia

In addition to criminal penalties, a person who commits shoplifting in Virginia may be civilly liable to the store owner for:

  • two times the retail value of the merchandise, or $50, whichever is greater (but if the store owner recovers the merchandise in a sellable condition, the penalty will be no more than $350 total), and
  • the store owner’s reasonable court costs and attorney fees in an amount of no more than $150. (Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-44.4(A).)

Effect of Previous Convictions on a Theft Charge in Virginia

If a person commits larceny in Virginia -- whether petit larceny, grand larceny, or any other type of larceny offense -- with a previous conviction for a misdemeanor or felony larceny offense, the offense will be punished by a sentence of confinement in jail for at least 30 days, but not more than 12 months, in addition to any fine set by the court. This is the case whether the prior conviction occurred in the state of Virginia, or in any other state.

Furthermore, any third or subsequent larceny offense in Virginia will become a Class 6 felony, which is punishable by imprisonment for one to five years, or imprisonment in jail for up to 12 months, in the judge or jury's discretion, and a fine of no more than $2,500, or both. (Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-104.)

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