What is Larceny?

Larceny is a crime, which is defined as the unlawful taking away of property, that belongs to another individual or group, by force. To put it simply, larceny is a legal term that refers to a particular type of theft. The US’s Model Penal Code typically categorizes larceny under theft.

However, there are certain states that treat larceny as a completely separate type of crime. They prefer to retain the traditional definition in which larceny is seen as a crime quite separate from common robbery or embezzlement.

Larceny explained

There are a few key elements that need to be taken into consideration before defining a crime as larceny.

To begin with, the crime must involve the unlawful acquisition of property belonging to another individual or group. For example, it must be proven that the item taken away by the defendant belonged to someone else. Secondly, the emphasis is on the intention of the defendant. There must be evidence to support that the defendant took away the property without the owner’s consent and with the intention of depriving the owner.

A breakdown of key terms

There are 4 key terms that determine whether a crime is a larceny of not. The first is “Unlawful Taking”. Unlawful Taking simply means that the defendant took away the property without any form of legal validation or authorization. In other words, a bank repossessing property for non-payment isn’t larceny as it is a legally supported action.

The second key term is “Someone Else’s Property”. As we mentioned earlier, for a crime to be called larceny, the unlawfully taken away property must belong to someone else. Now, this might sound obvious because no one would steal their own property, right?

Well, you’re wrong. It is possible to steal one’s own property. For instance, one can steal back property that was repossessed by the bank for non-payment. However, it wouldn’t constitute larceny.

There are also cases where one member ends up unlawfully taking away property (without consent) that he/she co-owns with a group of people. This is also larceny and exactly why the term “Someone Else’s Property” needs to be taken into consideration in order to define larceny.

The third term is “Without Consent”. This is quite self-explanatory – it’s not larceny if the owner has agreed to hand over the property to the defendant. However, it is a crime if the property has been transferred through deceptive or fraudulent methods or because of another crime. For instance, the transference of stolen property.

The final term is “Intent”. It must be proven or there must be enough reason for suspicion that the defendant unlawfully took away the property with the goal of depriving the owner permanently. In other words, borrowing someone’s property (even without consent) isn’t larceny, but can be considered as a different kind of crime.