Massachusetts state laws put several different theft crimes under the broad title of larceny, and there are several subcategories of larceny. The general crime of larceny in this state is detailed in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 266 Section 30. Larceny or theft is stated to be the taking of property that belongs to another person without consent and with the intent to deprive them of that property permanently. The circumstances of the theft crime and the value of the property you took determines the type of larceny crime that is charged. (MAlegislature.gov)
Under Massachusetts state law, theft crimes are divided into misdemeanors and felonies. When the property that is stolen has a value of less than $250, the person can be charged with petty larceny. This is a misdemeanor. The maximum penalty for this crime is one year in jail and a fine up to $300.
If the property is worth more than $250, the charge of larceny is a felony. This can be punished in Massachusetts by up to five years in prison and a fine up to $25,000. If you are charged with larceny of a motor vehicle, you could face a lot more punishment: The conviction for motor vehicle larceny is up to 15 years in prison.
Some of the most common theft crimes in Massachusetts are:
- Larceny by stealing: This is how a theft crime is generally defined in the state of Massachusetts
- Larceny by stealing from the person: Theft of something of value from a person
- Larceny by stealing in a building: Theft of something of value from a building or home without contact with a person
- Larceny by check: The crime of passing a bad check, including passing, making, drawing or delivering a check knowing there were insufficient funds
- Larceny by embezzlement: Crime to take property of another person with intent to convert that property into your own
- Buying or receiving stolen goods: The crime of receiving, aid in concealment of or purchase stolen goods
- Theft of services: Someone knowingly avoiding payment for services that were already obtained. Also, knowingly securing performance of service by threat or deception, diverting the services of another for your benefit or holding property beyond expiration of rental period without consent.
- Larceny of a motor vehicle: Stealing, receiving, buying, possessing or concealing a motor vehicle that was stolen
- Shoplifting: Stealing merchandise offered for sale from a retail property
- Credit card fraud: Stealing a credit card or credit card information and using it to purchase something of value
- Identity fraud: Intent to defraud by using a person’s identifying information to obtain or attempt to obtain money, goods, credit, services or anything of value.
Under Massachusetts state law, if the stolen property is a firearm, trade secret, worth over $250, you may get up to five years in prison, up to two years in jail, and a fine of up to $25,000. If the stolen property is worth $250 or less, you can get up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $300.
But if the victim of the theft crime is 65 or older and/or as a disability, there are enhancements to theft punishments:
- If the stolen property is valued at more than $250, you can get up to 10 years in state prison or up to 2.5 years in a house of correction. The fine can be as high as $50,000.
- If the stolen property was worth $250 or less, you can get up to 2.5 years in a house of correction and a fine up to $1000.
Also, a person who commits shoplifting will be civilly liable to the store owner for damages of not less than $50 and not more than $500, in addition to actual damages that were suffered by the store owner.
Defenses to a Theft or Larceny Charge
Theft and larceny charges in Massachusetts are serious, but there are several strong defenses to them, depending on your case circumstances. Attorney Nathan will work with you to determine which of these defenses, or a combination, may be your best option:
- Lack of intent to deprive person of property permanently: For theft to be charged, there must be specific intent. It requires the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that you took property with the intent to deprive them of it permanently. Many people charged with theft may have just borrowed the property and did not have actual intent. Absent the proof of intent, you cannot be convicted of theft.
- Owner consented to you taking the property: To be convicted of theft, the prosecutor must prove you took the property without consent. One possible defense is to show that the property owner gave or loaned the property to you.
- Presence only: You may argue that you did not actually participate in the theft. You could argue that you were only there when the crime occurred. Without showing that you intended for there to be a theft, it is impossible for you to be found guilty for just being at the scene of the crime.
- Mistaken identity: If the alleged theft involves accusations from a stranger, you can argue that you are the wrong person. While a theft may have occurred, you may argue that you were not the thief. This can be a strong defense when the stolen item was not found with you.
What To Do Next
If you have been charged with a theft crime in Massachusetts, Attorney Nathan is an excellent criminal defense attorney you need in your corner. Whether you have been charged with larceny, credit card fraud, stealing or another theft crime, you need to have a strong legal defense, as the prosecutor will aggressively attempt to convict you. For a criminal defense legal consultation, please contact him at (617) 472-5775
- Massachusetts General Laws, Part IV, Title I, Chapter 266, Section 30. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartIV/TitleI/Chapter266/Section3