Mississippi Laws on Petit and Grand Larceny

Theft, which is known as larceny under Mississippi law, is generally defined as the felonious taking, stealing, or carrying away of the property of another.

Defining Theft Under Mississippi Law

Theft, which is known as larceny under Mississippi law, is generally defined as the felonious taking, stealing, or carrying away of the property of another. Larceny may be classified as either a misdemeanor or felony in Mississippi (more on these classifications below).

Mississippi criminal statutes also identify a number of very specific larceny offenses, including:

  • stealing bonds, notes, drafts, or public securities (Miss. Code Ann. § 97-17-45 (2019).)
  • stealing crops or farm buildings, structures, or fences (§ 97-17-47)
  • stealing wool from dead sheep (§ 97-17-49)
  • stealing dogs (§ 97-17-51)
  • stealing livestock (§ 97-17-53)
  • stealing milk from cows (§ 97-17-55)
  • stealing timber (§ 97-17-59)
  • taking away certain livestock, dogs, and motor vehicles without the owner’s consent (§ 97-17-61)
  • stealing rental property (§ 97-17-62), and
  • receiving stolen property (§ 97-17-70).

Mississippi law categorizes most of these specific theft offenses as misdemeanors or felonies, depending in part on the dollar value of the property stolen.

Classification and Punishment for Theft in Mississippi

Like most states, Mississippi categorizes theft or larceny offenses according to the dollar value of the property taken (and sometimes based on the nature of the property itself). A 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—and some offenses may qualify as both, depending on the circumstances.

Petit Larceny

The lowest-level theft offense in Mississippi is called petit larceny, also known as petty theft. Petit larceny occurs when a person steals property valued at less than $1,000. Petit larceny is a misdemeanor under Mississippi law, punishable by a sentence of imprisonment in the county jail for no more than six months, or by a fine of not more than $1,000, or both.

Place of worship. If the petit larceny involves property (less than $1,000) stolen from a place of worship (such as a church, synagogue, or temple), the penalties become more severe. A person faces a sentence of imprisonment of up to one year and up to $2,000 in fines.
Gasoline. The theft of gasoline from a service station also constitutes petit larceny. For a second offense of stealing gasoline from a service station, the offender shall be subject to a six-month driver’s license suspension. That driver's license suspension may be bumped up to one year for any subsequent gasoline theft offense.
Shoplifting. Shoplifting of merchandise valued at $1,000 or less, whether a first or second offense, also qualifies as petit larceny.

(Miss. Code Ann. §§ 97-17-43, 97-23-93 (2019).)

Grand Larceny

When a person steals property valued at $1,000 or more, the crime becomes grand larceny. Grand larceny is a felony under Mississippi law and is punishable as follows:

  • if the property is valued at $1,000 or more but less than $5,000, by a maximum of five years’ imprisonment, a $10,000 fine, or both
  • if the property is valued at $5,000 or more but less than $25,000, by a maximum of ten years’ imprisonment, a $10,000 fine, or both, and
  • if the property is valued at $25,000 or more, by a maximum of 25 years’ imprisonment, a $10,000 fine, or both.

(Miss. Code Ann. § 97-17-41 (2019).)

Shoplifting merchandise valued at more than $1,000 is punishable as grand larceny (see above). If a person receives a conviction for a third or subsequent shoplifting offense involving merchandise valued between $500 and $1,000, the crime is a felony, punishable by a maximum of three years' imprisonment, a fine of $1,000, or both. (Miss. Code Ann. § 97-23-93 (2019).)

Civil Liability for Theft in Mississippi

In addition to criminal penalties, a person who commits shoplifting can be civilly liable to the store owner for an amount three times the actual damages stemming from the offense or $200, whichever is greater, plus reimbursement of the owner’s reasonable attorneys' fees and court costs in bringing the action. The owner of the merchandise is entitled to recover these damages, regardless of whether the offender returns the merchandise to the owner, and regardless of the condition of the merchandise when returned.

Before filing an action to recover civil damages from an offender who has shoplifted merchandise, the store owner first must give a written demand for damages to the offender. The written demand must allow the offender 30 days in which to pay the civil damages requested by the store owner. If the offender fails to pay the damages requested, the store owner can proceed to file suit to recover those damages. 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 Ann. § 97-23-96 (2019).)

Effect of Prior Convictions on Theft Charge in Mississippi

With the exception of the shoplifting offenses discussed above, the theft statutes in Mississippi do not provide specific information on the effects of prior theft convictions on a subsequent theft charge. However, 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 Ann. § 99-19-81 (2019).) Other enhancements may apply as well. Contact a Mississippi criminal defense attorney for assistance.

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