Vermont Laws on Petit and Grand Larceny

In Vermont, stealing property or services can result in harsh penalties, including prison sentences and steep fines.

Vermont defines larceny as the stealing or embezzling of property or services.

Stealing of property occurs when someone takes another's property without right and with the intention of keeping it wrongfully.

Stealing of services occurs when someone, knowing the services are available only by payment, uses deception or threats to unlawfully obtain the services.

Embezzlement occurs when someone who is entrusted to control another's property fraudulently converts the property for his or her own use.

Grand and Petit Larceny

Like many other states, Vermont's penalties for theft depend primarily on the value of the property or services stolen.

Grand Larceny

A person who steals property or services that exceed $900 in value commits a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Stealing property (any value) directly from a person also constitutes a 10-year felony.

Four strikes. Vermont's habitual offender statute provides an enhanced penalty—up to life in prison—for any person convicted of a fourth or subsequent felony.

Petit Larceny

Theft of property or services valued at $900 or less constitutes a misdemeanor. The maximum punishment is one years' incarceration and a $1,000 fine.

Receiving Stolen Property

A person who knowingly receives stolen property faces the same penalties (above) that apply for stealing the property outright.

(Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, §§ 11, 2501, 2503, 2561, 2582 (2020); State v. Reed, 253 A.2d 227 (Vt. 1969).)

Embezzlement

Vermont includes embezzlement under its larceny laws. Embezzlement is similar to theft by deception with the primary difference being the offender’s original possession was lawful. For instance, it's embezzlement when a guardian who is entrusted with an elderly adult's bank account for the purpose of paying the elderly adult's bills uses the money instead to buy a boat for him or herself.

Embezzlement of property or money that exceeds $100 constitutes a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. If embezzlement involves $100 or less in money or property, the penalty is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of one years’ incarceration and $1,000 fine. (Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 2531 (2020).)

Retail Theft (Shoplifting) Penalties

Vermont law contains both criminal and civil penalties for retail theft (commonly referred to as shoplifting).

Criminal Penalties

A person commits retail theft when, intending to deprive a merchant of possession of merchandise, the person takes or carries away merchandise from a store without paying retail value.

Retail theft of merchandise valued at more than $900 is a felony subject to 10 years in prison and up to a $1,000 fine. For retail theft of $900 or less, the penalty is a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of six months' incarceration and a $500 fine.

It’s also considered retail theft to:

  • alter or remove any label or price tag and purchase the merchandise for less than retail value, or
  • make, sell, or knowingly possess a tool or device designed to avoid theft detection.

Regardless of the value of the merchandise taken, altering or removing labels or price tags on products is a felony subject to up to two years in prison and a $1,000 fine. Making, selling, or knowingly possessing a device designed to avoid theft detection is also considered a 10-year felony and has a $5,000 fine. (Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, §§ 2573, 2575, 2577 (2020).)

Civil Penalties

Any person over the age of 16 (or an emancipated minor) who commits retail theft can also be held civilly liable to the store owner in an amount equal to:

  • the retail price of the merchandise (if not returned in a sellable condition), and
  • a civil penalty of up to two times the retail price, but not less than $25 and not more than $300.

The store owner can seek the damages and penalties by sending a written demand to the accused shoplifter (to resolve the issue out of court) or by filing a civil action in court.

Vermont's law also contains a criminal penalty for any merchant who abuses the written demand process by trying to extract money from someone not legally obligated to pay civil penalties. The offense constitutes a misdemeanor with a maximum of one years' incarceration and a $1,000 fine. (Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13, § 2579 (2020).)

Talk to a Lawyer

If you've been charged with larceny, embezzlement, or retail theft, speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help navigate you through the criminal justice process, help protect your rights, and evaluate possible defenses. Even if the charges are for petit larceny, seeking an attorney's advice can be helpful. Any criminal theft record can impact your ability in the future to get a job, loan, or housing. Before making a plea deal or civil compromise (in the case of shoplifting), speak with a knowledgable attorney to understand the current and future consequences of such actions.

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