Virginia Laws on Petit and Grand Larceny and Shoplifting

Like many states, Virginia classifies its larceny offenses according to the value of the stolen property—and, in some cases, according to the type of property involved in the larceny.

Virginia's larceny statutes cover a broad range of prohibited conduct, including theft, embezzlement, false pretenses, receiving stolen property, and other similar offenses.

Defining Larceny Under Virginia Law

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).)

Classification of Larceny Offenses and Penalties

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.

Petit Larceny

A person commits petit larceny by doing either of the following:

  • stealing money or other things of value of less than $5 directly from someone, or
  • stealing property with a value of less than $1,000.

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

Grand larceny occurs when a person commits larceny and:

  • the value of stolen property or services is $1,000 or more
  • the property is valued at $5 or more and is taken from the person of another, or
  • the stolen property is a firearm of any dollar value.

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).)

Sentencing Alternatives and Enhancements for Petit (Misdemeanor) Larceny

Virginia's law provides judges various sentencing options in petit (misdemeanor) larceny cases.

Deferred Disposition

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.

Sentencing Enhancement

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).)

Shoplifting: Crime and Penalties

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:

  • willfully conceals or takes possession of the goods
  • alters the price or value of merchandise, or
  • helps someone else doing any of the above acts.

Criminal Penalties

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.

Civil Penalties

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:

  • 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 cannot exceed $350 total), and
  • the store owner's reasonable court costs and attorneys' fees up to $150.

(Va. Code §§ 8.01-44.4; 18.2-10, -11, -103, -104, -105.2 (2020).)

Talk to a Lawyer

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.

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