Virginia prohibits theft under its larceny statute. While the statute doesn’t define larceny, Virginia retains the common law definition found in case law. Case law provides that a person commits larceny when they wrongfully or fraudulently take another’s personal goods of some intrinsic value without permission and with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the items.
Virginia criminal statutes also define and penalize certain offenses as larcenies, including shoplifting, false pretenses, embezzlement, and receiving stolen goods.
(Va. Code §§ 18.2-95-98, -102, -108, -111 (2020).)
Like many states, Virginia classifies larceny offenses according to the value of the stolen property involved—or, in some circumstances, by the type of stolen property. The value of the stolen items determines whether the larceny is grand or petit larceny.
A person commits petit larceny by doing either of the following:
Petit larceny constitutes a Class 1 misdemeanor under Virginia law. A guilty offender faces penalties of up to 12 months of incarceration and a $2,500 fine.
Grand larceny occurs when a person commits larceny and:
Grand larceny is a felony. A person who commits grand larceny is subject to one to 20 years of incarceration. 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 $1,000. If grand larceny is punished as a misdemeanor in this type of situation, the offender will face up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.
(Va. Code §§ 18.2-10, -11, -95, -96, -97 (2020).)
Virginia’s law provides judges various sentencing options in petit (misdemeanor) larceny cases.
Judges have the option to use a deferred disposition if the defendant has no prior felony convictions and not received the benefit of a deferred disposition for the same offense in the past. In this sentencing alternative, the judge places the defendant on probation without finding him guilty of the crime. If the defendant successfully completes the term of probation, the case is dismissed.
If a person commits a petit (or misdemeanor) larceny in Virginia and has a previous larceny conviction—whether petit larceny, grand larceny, or any other type of larceny offense—the person faces enhanced penalties. The prior convictions count whether they occurred in the state of Virginia or not.
For a second offense, an offender faces incarceration for 30 days to 12 months, in addition to any fine set by the court. For a third or subsequent larceny offense, they are guilty of a Class 6 felony. Class 6 felonies are wobblers, which means they can be punished as a felony (one to five years of incarceration) or as a misdemeanor (up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine).
(Va. Code §§ 18.2-10, -104; 19.2-303.2 (2020).)
Like many states, Virginia's shoplifting laws provide for both criminal and civil penalties.
A person commits shoplifting by intentionally doing any of the following acts without the merchant’s consent and with intent to permanently deprive the merchant of the goods or their full retail value:
Shoplifting is a type of larceny, and the criminal penalties are based on the value of the merchandise involved. When the value of the stolen goods or merchandise is less than $1,000, the offender is guilty of petit larceny. A person guilty of petit larceny faces penalties of up to 12 months of incarceration and a $2,500 fine. However, if the taken items have a value of $1,000 or more, the shoplifter has committed grand larceny. A person who commits grand larceny is subject to one to 20 years of incarceration or confinement for 12 months and a $2,500 fine.
Additionally, a person who makes, sells, or possesses a laminated bag or other device intended to prevent the detection of shoplifted merchandise commits a Class 1 misdemeanor. Such an offender faces up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.
In addition to criminal penalties, a person (adult, emancipated minor, or employee) who commits shoplifting in Virginia may be civilly liable to the store owner for:
(Va. Code §§ 8.01-44.4; 18.2-10, -11, -103, -104, -105.2 (2020).)
If you have been charged with larceny or a related crime, contact a local criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Larceny charges can negatively affect future employment opportunities, the ability to qualify for housing, and even immigration status. An experienced lawyer will be able to thoroughly discuss your options with you.