Theft or Larceny is a serious crime. It happens when someone takes away someone else’s property without permission and with an intention to deprive the owner of the property permanently.

Statutes establish various types of theft crimes. The basic and commonest distinction between different kinds of theft is related to grand theft and petty theft.

Petty Theft and Grand Theft

Grand theft is considered a more serious type of offence due to various reasons. Grand theft might be considered “first degree” theft. In many states, a theft is considered grand theft if:

  • the value of the stolen property is more than a minimum amount (usually $500-$1,000 or more)
  • property is directly taken from the owner but by neither forcing nor instilling fear (if fear or force is used, it will be called burglary). Pick pocketing could be a suitable example in this context.
  • particular types of property are taken and carried away. Theft of vehicles and some species of animals is considered grand theft irrespective of their current market value.

A theft not considered a grand theft comes under the category of petty theft or second degree theft (which is considered an intermediate offense).

Shoplifting

Shoplifting refers to the crime of taking goods from a shop without paying for the items. Following is what an encompassing definition of shoplifting might look like:

  • Intentionally taking possession of or carrying away goods on sale at a store
  • Without the merchant’s consent or knowledge
  • With an intention to keep merchandise or permanently deprive the owner (i.e. the merchant) of it
  • Without paying the price for the merchandise.

Hiding the merchandise is also considered an act of shoplifting. This particular element of shoplifting makes it possible for the state to recognize it as a separate crime similar to “willful concealment” of merchandise where the crime takes place when the defendant willingly conceals the merchandises while being within the store’s premise.

Theft of Lost Property

Keeping lost property will be considered as theft if the finder did not return it to its rightful owner despite having an opportunity to do so. It will be considered as “constructive” taking and will translate into theft.

Theft of Stolen Property

Keeping or buying stolen property will qualify for a crime. To convict an allegedly liable person of receiving stolen items, the government must prove that the property in the defendant’s possession was actually someone else’s and stolen from the rightful owner, and the defendant was fully aware that it was stolen.

The government usually resorts to circumstantial evidences in order to prove that the defendant had the required state-of-mind.

Receiving Legal Help

There are a variety of theft crimes and only a few of them have been discussed here. You should consult a learned and experienced lawyer to get information on the laws on such crimes in your jurisdictions. If you face a charge for theft, talk to a criminal defense lawyer who has experience with the local court system and dealt with cases similar to yours.