Larceny is a crime in which the perpetrator takes possession of a piece of property in which another individual has legitimate possession rights. The perpetrator takes possession but does not obtain ownership rights. In crimes of larceny, the main element is possession, rather than ownership. For example, a person can take possession of an item, such as a car, without taking ownership.
In contrast to crimes that involve false pretense, larceny is simply based on possession. Crimes of false pretense involve an individual that takes ownership of a personal piece of property through deception. For example, a larceny case may involve an individual that takes possession of a car in order to sell it. That individual may commit larceny by trick. In larceny by trick, they may have told the owner of the vehicle that they are taking it away in order to fix it for the owner.
The perpetrator then attempts to sell the car. Even though the perpetrator had permission to have possession of the vehicle for some amount of time, they were not granted ownership rights of that vehicle. In addition, the possession rights were expected to expire after a certain length of time which likely would have been the time that repairs of the car were completed.
In false pretense cases, the perpetrator would have gained the title to the vehicle through an act of deception, which would have given them ownership rights, in addition to the rights of possession. The perpetrator may have attempted to fix the car but told the owner that the car could not be fixed. In that case, they have gained ownership of the vehicle through false pretenses. The deception in that case was telling the owner that the car was worthless. Afterwards, the perpetrator sold the vehicle, knowing that it was actually valuable personal property.
The distinction between larceny and crimes of false pretense is ownership rights versus possession rights. In larceny, the perpetrator simply permanently prevents an individual from retaining possession of personal property. In crimes of false pretense, the rightful owner is permanently deprived of ownership of their personal property through an act of deception. There are many similar elements in both crimes.
In larceny, the perpetrator takes or moves the valuable personal property. Property is defined as an item in which another person has ownership or possession rights of that item. In larceny, the individual simply takes possession of the item. There are many ways that perpetrators commit larceny.
In some cases, they trick an individual into granting temporary possession rights which are later utilized to make off with the property. In other cases, criminals use stealth to deprive someone of possession of their personal property. Generally, victims of stealth larceny do not immediately realize that a crime has taken place because criminals avoid detection.
In today's businesses, theft by employees is common and that type of larceny can take on many forms. One of the most common forms of employee larceny and theft by a bailee is theft of work-related equipment. Employees may steal office equipment such as staplers and paper. A bailee also steals from employers, but does so when they are entitled to temporary possession of that property.
For example, a trucker may have legitimate possession of produce, but if he eats it it would be considered theft by a bailee. In addition, an individual that finds property which can reasonably be assumed to have been lost or misplaced is guilty of larceny if they make no attempt to reunite that property with the person that has possession rights. If however, the property was abandoned, an individual that finds that property is legally entitled to possess it.
Asportation is the carrying away or moving of a piece of property in which the person has no rights to possess or own that property. For example, a person that moves an automobile without permission from the person that has possession rights of that vehicle is guilty of larceny. In fact, they are guilty of larceny even if they are the rightful owner of that personal piece of property if they do not have the right to possess that property.
For example, if a person has their car impounded because they have not paid parking tickets, the police have possession rights of that vehicle. The police would likely have possession rights until the owner has made restitution for the parking tickets, the tow and the storage of that vehicle. In fact, the owner of the vehicle has likely incurred numerous financial fines in addition to the original parking tickets. Simply paying for the parking tickets alone does not grant the owner of the vehicle possession rights. If the owner were to go to the impound lot and drive away with their own vehicle, they would be guilt of larceny even if they have the title to that vehicle. Larceny is a crime against possession rights, not ownership rights.
Valuable Personal Property
In order for a person to be found guilty of larceny, the property that they took possession of must have some monetary value. That monetary value may be significant or it may be a very small value. The actual monetary value will determine if the charge is petty larceny or grand larceny. The actual value, however, does not matter in determining that the crime is larceny, as long as the item has some value. In other words, a person cannot be charged with larceny if they took some item that has no monetary value.
For instance, a person that takes garbage from the curb cannot be charged with larceny unless that garbage has some monetary value and was not actually abandoned. For example, if they find an item out on the curb where the trash is usually placed, they cannot assume that it is there to be thrown out unless it is placed with other garbage. In fact, owners of property are free to place it anywhere they wish without another person being able to assume that it has been abandoned.
However, it is very unlikely that anyone would be charged with larceny if the owner of the property chose to dispose of it with their garbage. Any reasonable person would assume that garbage has been abandoned by the person that has possession rights of that property. By putting items out for the garbage, the owner has abandoned the property and given up possession and ownership rights and any person may choose to take possession of that property.
"Of Another"–important principle
In the crime of larceny, an individual takes possession rights of a piece of property to which another person has legitimate possession rights. For example, a person may remove a bike from a park. The perpetrator would know that the bike was the property of another person, even though it was in the park with no owner in sight. The perpetrator could not legitimately assume that the bike was abandoned. If, however, the same bike was placed in a dumpster, an individual could assume that another individual has relinquished possession rights of that bike and any person could then take the bike.
There are some occasions where it can be difficult to determine if an item has been abandoned or if an item was lost. For example, the bike near a dumpster may have been placed there by some individual other than the person that has legitimate possession rights to the bike. Perhaps some individual was angry with the owner of the bike and attempted to throw it out to gain revenge.
In that case, the possession rights of that bike were not relinquished and a larceny has taken place. However, the individual that found the bike by the dumpster would not likely be the one charged with larceny. The person that moved the bike from the location where it was placed by the person with possession rights would be the individual that was guilty of larceny.
"Intent to permanently deprive the person entitled to possession of that possession"
An element of larceny is that the person takes possession of the piece of property with the intent of permanently depriving the rightful owner of that property. In other words, the person that takes possession of the property has no intention of returning that property to the rightful owner or to the persons with possession rights. For example, a person that borrows property, even without asking, is not guilty of larceny if they return the property.
Larceny is a crime in which the possession rights of an individual are permanently violated by the perpetrator. In other words, the individual that takes possession of the property has no intention of returning it to the person that has the legitimate right to posses it.