Examples of Larceny & Theft

Larceny is generally defined as theft - taking of the property of another person without using force. The following elements must be shown for a person to be convicted for larceny in Massachusetts: (MAlegislature.gov).

  • The property was unlawfully taken and carried away
  • The property belonged to someone else
  • There was no consent by the owner
  • The intent was to permanently deprive the owner of that property.

Below are common examples definitions larceny.

Petty or Petit Larceny

This where property that is stolen is worth less than $400 or so for it be be petty. This type of larceny can involve anything from smaller amounts of money to electronic devices such as cell phones, to pieces of furniture or household goods.

Grand Larceny

Grand larceny is where the property is valued above $400 and and is stolen. In New York, for example, the amount of the robbery for it to be considered grand larceny is more than $1000. People who are convicted of this crime can be put in prison; if the amount of the grand larceny is higher it can become a felony and you could do longer time in state or federal prison. You also will be responsible for restitution.

SEE ALSO: Massachusetts Grand Larceny Laws & Charges


This is a different form of larceny and is often called under the law ‘larceny by embezzlement.’ The criminal is entrusted with the property. He may only embezzle a small amount at first to avoid detection of the crime. Once he thinks the crime is unnoticed, he may embezzle larger sums.

SEE ALSO: Massachusetts Embezzlement Laws & Charges

This type of larceny is different because in embezzlement, the property came lawfully into your possession, and you then illegally appropriated it. The vital aspect of the embezzlement is that a fiduciary relationship exists between you the embezzler and the victim. For example, an executive who uses company funds to pay for his yacht is guilty of embezzlement, even if he planned to return the money or had the ability to do so.

Specific types of larceny are:

Purse Snatching

Grabbing someone’s purse with force is a common form of larceny. If the offender has used force that instills fear in the person as you take away their property, then the crime is actually robbery. If there was no fear and force, then it is larceny.


The criminal shoplifts items from a store and does not pay. Or he may switch price tags and pay a lesser amount than the real value. This is generally a misdemeanor because the value of the property is less than a few hundred dollars.

Issuing False Check

When a criminal issues a back check to an owner for getting his property, it is called ‘larceny by false check.’ The check bounces, even when the property title was transferred to the name of the criminal.

False Promise

If you acquire or withhold property of another person by making any type of false promise. The promise can be a way of engaging in a certain way of conduct at some point in the future.

Theft from Vending and Gaming Machines

Machines that are used by putting coins into them to buy products or services can be robbed; this is still larceny even if another person was not involved. This also can occur with gaming machines, laundry machines and parking meters.


This type of larceny frequently occur in a crowded area. The victim usually is totally unaware of it. The person doing this type of larceny is called a pickpocket. This can be either petty or grand larceny, depending upon the amount of the money that is stolen.

Theft from Automobiles and Theft of Parts

This type of larceny may include stealing computers, cell phones, cameras and other valuables. Sometimes the criminal will steal parts of the car that are attached, such as the rear view mirror, radio antenna, CD player or radio.

Defenses to a Larceny Charge

Larceny charges are serious in Massachusetts and all states, but there are effective defenses available.

First, you can make a claim of right defense. This means you are not guilty of the larceny if the property was taken with the belief that you had the right to possess said property. For example, a landlord who grabs the property of a tenant because rent has not been paid is not usually guilty of larceny. A person can also use force to recover property if he has the right of possession of that property.

Another defense to a larceny charge is if you found lost or misplaced property. If you keep the property, you may not be guilty of the crime. If you have a reasonable idea who the property belongs to, then the owner still has constructive possession of that property. For instance, if you find a diamond ring in a shopping mall and hold onto it so you can find the owner, this is not larceny.

But if the ring was taken with the idea to steal it, the person is then guilty of larceny. If you have no clue who owns the property, you can use the property as you wish.

It also is possible for a defendant to have been mistaken about the circumstances of the alleged theft. Because of the requirement of specific intent, even an unreasonable mistake can be a defense to a larceny charge. For example, it is possible an airline passenger could mistakenly grab the luggage of another person at the baggage claim area. The bag does not really look like that person’s bag, and the average person probably would not have made the error, but if the mistake was real, there is a valid defense to a larceny crime charge.

Facing a Larceny Charge?

If you are facing a larceny charge from the state of Massachusetts, you should obtain a strong criminal defense attorney right now. You will need a strong legal advocate by your side.

Attorney Geoffrey Nathan has many years of success fighting larceny crime charges of various amounts.  Attorney Nathan will be the best legal advocate for you during this stressful time. For a criminal defense legal consultation, please contact him at (617) 472-5775.


Need Criminal Defense Help?

For a Federal or Criminal Consultation, call me today at 617-472-5775 or use the form below for your consultation. I will offer you expert help and answer any specific questions you have about your case. I handle criminal defense cases throughout all areas of Massachusetts including Boston, Cambridge, Newton, Springfield, Quincy, Lowell, Worcester, Fall River and national for Federal matters.

Contact Information

Geoffrey G. Nathan Law Office
132 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02116

Download my contact information

Get Driving Directions