larceny | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Criminal Law

Larceny is a criminal offense that involves the unlawful taking of another person’s property with the intent to deprive the owner of that property permanently.

It is a type of theft characterized by the intent to permanently deprive the rightful owner of their property.

Think of it this way: imagine you borrow a friend’s bicycle without asking. You plan to return it after a quick ride. Although this is not a good practice, it’s not larceny because there’s no intent to keep the bike forever. However, if you take the bike planning never to return it, that’s larceny.

Variations of Larceny Under the Model Penal Code

The Model Penal Code, a framework that aims to standardize criminal laws across the United States, classifies it into different categories. The variations mainly depend on the value of the property taken and whether the offender used force or not.

  1. Petty Larceny: This form involves the theft of property of low value. While the specific value may vary from state to state, it often includes property worth less than $500.
  2. Grand Larceny: This is the theft of property that exceeds a certain value, often set at $500 or more. The exact threshold varies across different jurisdictions.
  3. Larceny by Trick: This type involves tricking the owner into handing over the property. The offender does not intend to return it, though the owner believes they will.
  4. Larceny by Embezzlement: This is a unique type where someone who has lawful possession of another’s property dishonestly converts it for personal use.
  5. Larceny from the Person (Pickpocketing): This form involves taking property directly from the person without their noticing.

The Elements

To convict someone of this offense, the prosecution must prove certain key elements beyond a reasonable doubt.

  1. Unlawful Taking and Carrying Away: The offender must unlawfully take and move the property. The property doesn’t need to move far; even a small movement can count.
  2. Personal Property of Another: The item taken must be the personal property of someone else. Personal property can be any movable object that someone possesses.
  3. Without the Consent of the Owner: The offender must take the property without the owner’s permission. If the owner agrees to the taking, it’s not larceny.
  4. With Intent to Deprive the Owner Permanently: The offender must intend to keep the property forever. If they plan to return the item, it’s not larceny.


Larceny, a specific type of theft, has a vital place in our understanding of criminal law. It’s a serious offense, punishable by law. The Model Penal Code provides categories of larceny, distinguishing the crime based on factors like the property’s value and the methods used in the theft. To secure a larceny conviction, the prosecution must prove key elements, such as unlawful taking, intent to deprive the owner permanently, and absence of the owner’s consent. Understanding these components can help us better comprehend the crime of larceny and its consequences.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 05/29/2023

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