Virginia Laws on Petit and Grand Larceny and Shoplifting

The basics of how Virginia defines, classifies, and punishes petit and grand larceny.

By , Attorney · University of Houston Law Center
Updated by Rebecca Pirius, Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated November 16, 2022

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

How Does the Virginia Code Define and Classify Larceny?

Virginia retains its common law definition of larceny, which is found in case law rather than in the Virginia Code. Case law defines larceny as a wrongful or fraudulent taking of another's personal property without permission and with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property.

The Virginia Code does, however, classify larceny offenses into petit and grand larceny based on the value of the stolen property or type of property. The code also provides that certain offenses are considered larceny, such as shoplifting, false pretenses, embezzlement, and receiving stolen goods.

What Are the Penalties for Petit Larceny in Virginia (VA)?

A person commits petit (or petty) 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 one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Judges have the option to use a deferred disposition if a defendant facing misdemeanor larceny charges has no prior felony convictions and hasn't previously received a deferred disposition for larceny. 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.

What Are the Penalties for Grand Larceny in Virginia (VA)?

The offense becomes grand larceny when:

  • 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 faces one to 20 years in prison.

Virginia law 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, -98, -102, -108, -111; 19.2-303.2 (2022).)

Virginia's 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 do any of the above acts.

Criminal Penalties for Shoplifting in VA

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 for Shoplifting in VA

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, 104.1, -105.2 (2022).)

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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