West Virginia Petit and Grand Larceny and Shoplifting Laws

Like many states, West Virginia classifies its larceny offenses according to the value of the stolen property or services—and, in some cases, according to the circumstances surrounding the larceny.

West Virginia's larceny statutes prohibit a broad range of conduct, including larceny of property, receiving stolen property, fraudulent use of a credit card, embezzlement, and obtaining services by false pretenses.

Defining Larceny Under West Virginia Law

A person commits larceny in West Virginia by unlawfully taking and carrying away another's property with the intent of permanently depriving the rightful owner of their property. West Virginia laws also identify a number of specific larceny-related offenses, including:

  • receiving or transferring stolen goods
  • fraudulent use of a credit or debit card
  • embezzlement, and
  • obtaining money, property, and services by false pretenses.

(W.Va. Code §§ 61-3-13 to -24 (2021).)

Penalties for Larceny in West Virginia

West Virginia, like many states, classifies most larceny crimes according to the value of the property or services involved in the offense. A larceny offense can be either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances.

Petit Larceny

A person commits petit (or simple) larceny when the stolen property or services has a value of less than $1,000. Such an offense constitutes a misdemeanor and subjects the offender to up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Grand Larceny

Grand larceny, a felony, involves stolen property or services valued at $1,000 or more. A guilty party faces one to ten years in prison. The law gives a judge the discretion to impose a lesser penalty of up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. A judge might impose this lesser jail sentence if mitigating factors were involved, such as the young age of the defendant or the defendant's lack of criminal history.

Some larceny-related offenses, such as institutional embezzlement, carry even harsher felony penalties with mandatory minimum sentences starting at ten years in prison.

Enhanced Sentences for Repeat Offenders

West Virginia statutes authorize more severe penalties for repeat felony offenders. If an offender guilty of grand larceny has a previous felony conviction, the judge can order five years of additional incarceration to the current sentence or double the minimum term. If the defendant has two previous felony convictions for crimes similar to the present offense, they can face life in prison.

(W.Va. Code §§ 61-3-13, -20; 61-11-18 (2021).)

Shoplifting Penalties in West Virginia

Like many states, West Virginia's criminal statutes provide for both criminal and civil penalties for the offense of shoplifting.

Criminal Penalties

A person commits shoplifting by doing any of the following with the intent to deprive the owner of the value of the merchandise:

  • conceals the merchandise
  • removes the merchandise from the store
  • alters, transfers, or removes any price tag
  • transfers the merchandise to a different container
  • under-rings the merchandise
  • removes a shopping cart from the premises, or
  • attempts to return or exchange merchandise knowing it wasn't purchased from that establishment.

While initial shoplifting convictions may only result in small fines, the penalties become progressively more severe with subsequent shoplifting convictions. Ultimately, a shoplifter could face felony charges under West Virginia law.

First shoplifting offense. First-time shoplifting convictions constitute misdemeanors. If the value of the stolen merchandise is $500 or less, the offender must pay a fine of up to $250 but won't face jail time. However, if the merchandise exceeds $500, the penalty increases to up to 60 days in jail and a mandatory fine of $100 to $500.

Second shoplifting offense. A second shoplifting offense also qualifies as a misdemeanor. The penalty for stolen merchandise valued at $500 or less includes up to six months in jail and a mandatory fine of $100 to $500. When the value exceeds $500, the judge must impose a minimum jail sentence of six months and a maximum of one year, and the fine begins at $500.

Third shoplifting offense. An offender is guilty of a felony for a third or subsequent shoplifting conviction, regardless of the value of the stolen items. The shoplifter faces one to 10 years in prison and a fine of $500 to $5,000.

Mandatory penalty. In addition to the fines and imprisonment for shoplifting convictions list above, the judge will also impose a penalty of $50 or double the value of the merchandise (whichever is higher). However, the court can only order this penalty in either the criminal case or the civil matter, but not both (see "Civil Penalties" below).

Theft detection shielding devices. West Virginia also makes it a crime to possess or use any theft detection shielding device (like a coated bag) or remove any theft detection device (such as a security tag). These offenses are misdemeanors and subject the offender to jail time of 30 days and up to one year and a mandatory fine of $100 to $1,000.

Civil Penalties

In addition to the criminal penalties described above, a person convicted of shoplifting may be civilly liable to the store owner for:

  • return of the merchandise to the store or actual damages for the value of merchandise that is damaged or not recovered
  • any other actual damages (such as property damage)
  • a penalty of $50 or double the value of the merchandise (whichever is higher), and
  • reimbursement of the store owner's reasonable court costs and attorneys' fees.

(W.Va. Code §§ 61-3A-1, -3, -4A (2021).)

Talk to a Lawyer

If you have been arrested for or charged with larceny, embezzlement, receiving stolen property, or another larceny-related crime, contact a local criminal defense attorney right away. Even a minor larceny offense can have permanent negative consequences for your future. An experienced lawyer can discuss possible defenses in your case and explain both short- and long-term consequences for your situation.

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