Mississippi Laws on Petit and Grand Larceny and Shoplifting

Mississippi law refers to the crime of theft as larceny. Learn about the penalties for petit and grand larceny.

Mississippi classifies larceny into two main categories, petit larceny and grand larceny, based primarily on the value of the stolen property. Larceny includes offenses such as embezzlement, shoplifting, and receiving stolen property.

Defining Larceny Under Mississippi Law

Mississippi law defines larceny (theft) as the felonious taking, stealing, or carrying away of another's personal property with the intent of permanently depriving the owner of their property. A person can commit larceny through a physical taking or by use of false pretenses, fraud, or fraudulent conversion. Mississippi classifies larceny as either a misdemeanor or felony (more on these classifications below).

Larceny of Specific Property

Mississippi criminal statutes also identify a number of specific larceny offenses that carry the same penalties as grand and petit larceny. These offenses include:

  • embezzlement
  • stealing a motor vehicle
  • stealing bonds, notes, drafts, or public securities
  • stealing crops or livestock
  • stealing materials severed from buildings, gates, fences, railing, or other improvements
  • stealing rental property, and
  • receiving stolen property.

(Miss. Code §§ 97-17-41 to -70; 97-23-19 (2020).)

Classification and Punishment for Larceny in Mississippi

Like most states, Mississippi categorizes larceny offenses according to the dollar value of the property taken and, sometimes, the nature of the property itself. Misdemeanor theft is known as petit larceny under Mississippi law, and felony theft is known as grand larceny. Most theft offenses will fall into one of these two categories.

Petit Larceny

A person commits petit larceny by stealing property valued at less than $1,000. A conviction results in a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months' jail time, a $1,000 fine, or both. The penalty increases to one year in jail if the property is stolen from a place of worship.

(Miss. Code § 97-17-43 (2020).)

Grand Larceny

When a person steals property valued at $1,000 or more, the crime becomes grand larceny. A person convicted of grand larceny faces the following felony penalties.

  • If the property is valued at $1,000 or more but less than $5,000, the offender faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The penalty increases to a ten-year felony sentence if the property is stolen from a place of worship.
  • If the property is valued at $5,000 or more but less than $25,000, the offender faces a maximum sentence of ten years' imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.
  • If the property is valued at $25,000 or more, the offender faces a 20-year maximum prison sentence and a fine of $10,000.

(Miss. Code § 97-17-41 (2020).)

Enhanced Penalties for Petit and Grand Larceny

Mississippi law provides enhanced penalties for repeat offenses.

Habitual felons. Mississippi's sentencing statutes provide that habitual criminals (anyone with at least two prior felony convictions) must be sentenced to the maximum term of imprisonment allowed unless the court gives a reason for a lesser term. (Miss. Code § 99-19-81 (2020).)

Third petit larceny offense. A third or subsequent conviction for petit larceny where the value of the property is more than $500 but less than $1,000 becomes a felony with a maximum three-year sentence. (Miss. Code § 97-17-43 (2020).)

Motor vehicle. A second or subsequent conviction for motor vehicle theft carries an enhanced penalty of up to twice the term authorized for grand larceny, a fine of $10,000, or both. (Miss. Code § 97-17-42 (2020).)

Gasoline. For a second offense of stealing gasoline from a service station, the offender shall be subject to a six-month driver's license suspension. The driver's license suspension is bumped up to one year for any subsequent gasoline theft offense. (Miss. Code § 97-17-43 (2020).)

Shoplifting Penalties in Mississippi

Like most states, Mississippi provides both criminal and civil penalties for shoplifting offenses. The law defines shoplifting as any of the following acts done with the intent of depriving a merchant of the full value of the merchandise:

  • concealing or removing unpaid merchandise from the store
  • altering, switching, or removing price tags
  • removing anti-theft tags
  • switching merchandise containers, or
  • causing the cash register to reflect a lower price.

It's also a crime to make, distribute, use, or possess with intent to use a theft detection device remover, tool, or shield (such as a laminated bag) or to remove a theft detection device.

Criminal Penalties

Penalties for shoplifting depend on the value of the merchandise stolen and whether a person has prior shoplifting convictions. Separate penalties apply for possession or use of theft detection shielding devices or removers.

Merchandise value of less than $1,000. A first or second offense for shoplifting merchandise valued at less than $1,000 carries misdemeanor penalties of by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. A third or subsequent offense involving merchandise valued between $500 and $1,000 carries a three-year felony sentence.

Merchandise value of $1,000 or more. For shoplifting involving merchandise valued at $1,000 or more, the penalty mirrors those described above for grand larceny—ranging from a five- to 20-year prison sentence—based on value.

Acts involving theft detection devices. Anyone who makes, transfers, uses, or possesses a tool used to remove or disable a theft detection device commits a misdemeanor with a minimum sentence of 30 days' jail time and a $250 fine and a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Removal of a device also carries a misdemeanor penalty of up to 60 days' jail time and a fine of $100 to $500.

(Miss. Code §§ 97-23-93, -93.1 (2020).)

Civil Penalties

In addition to criminal penalties, a person who commits shoplifting can be civilly liable to the store owner. A store owner can seek damages from a shoplifter in an amount three times the actual damages stemming from the offense or $200, whichever is greater. The court can also award payment of the store owner's reasonable attorneys' fees and court costs. These civil penalties are available to the owner even if the stolen goods were recovered in merchantable condition.

If the offender is a minor who still lives with a parent or guardian, the parent or guardian cannot be held civilly liable, unless the store owner can prove that the parent or guardian knew that the minor was shoplifting merchandise or somehow aided the minor in shoplifting the merchandise.

(Miss. Code § 97-23-96 (2020).)

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