Larceny v/s Theft in North Carolina: Understanding the Difference

Learn the Difference Between Larceny Versus Theft in North Carolina

Even though people often use the terms “larceny” and “theft” interchangeably, there is a difference. Both entail unlawfully taking someone else’s property and carrying it away without the owner’s permission. Larceny is a serious crime that can lead to long-term consequences if you are convicted. It is a specific type of stealing while theft is a general umbrella term that includes all different kinds of stealing, including identity theft, theft of services, theft of intellectual property, and theft of personal property.

In fighting for your rights, Sandman, Finn, & Fitzhugh, your Raleigh defense attorneys, aggressively represent our clients who have been charged with a theft crime. We understand the stress you can feel when you are accused of theft. Some specific elements differentiate larceny and theft. If you have been charged with either, you need to know these fundamentals. In this article, we cover the differences between larceny and theft in North Carolina.

Theft in North Carolina

A theft crime is a legal concept involving the unlawful taking of someone else’s property to permanently deprive the owner of that property. In North Carolina, theft crimes are criminal offenses and are subject to prosecution. There are many types of theft–larceny is one of them. Here are the key elements that constitute theft crimes.

Wrongful Taking

The wrongful taking of another person’s property is theft, meaning the defendant intentionally and illegally takes control of the property without the owner’s consent.

Intent to Deprive

Integral to theft is the intent to permanently deprive the owner of his/her property. Permanently means the defendant has the intention of keeping the stolen property for themselves or disposing of it so that the owner cannot recover it.

Property Ownership

Theft involves taking property that someone else owns. It is integral that the property is proven to belong to another individual or entity. 

Value of the Stolen Property

The value of the stolen property impacts the severity of theft charges in North Carolina. There are different degrees of theft offenses, such as misdemeanor petty theft and felony grand theft, based on the value of the property stolen. Usually, higher-value thefts are often treated more seriously under the law.

Knowledge and Awareness

The prosecution must prove that the defendant was aware that their actions constituted theft. Such awareness may include the knowledge that the property belonged to someone else and an understanding that taking it was unlawful.

Larceny in North Carolina

In North Carolina, there are different classifications of larceny depending on the value of the property taken, the type of property that is stolen, and the circumstances of the incident. Larceny involves specific elements that must be established by the prosecution to secure a conviction. These elements constitute a foundation for any larceny crimes and are critical for legal professionals and accused individuals to understand.

Larceny must have these same key elements as theft:

  • Wrongful taking
  • Intent to deprive
  • Property ownership
  • Value of the stolen property

Larceny must also involve these other elements to be considered grand larceny.

Carrying Away

Typically, larceny involves the physical removal or carrying away of the stolen property, stressing the unlawful act of moving the property from its original location, not simply taking possession.

Personal Property

Larceny pertains to personal property, which includes tangible items like electronics, jewelry, money, and other belongings. Real estate and land are not considered personal property in the context of larceny.

Ownership or Possession

The property involved in a larceny case must belong to someone else. The owner or lawful possessor of the property must not have given consent to the defendant to take it. The distinction between ownership and possession is critical.

Is Larceny a Felony or Misdemeanor?

Whether larceny is a felony or a misdemeanor depends on the nature and circumstances of the allegations, the individual aspects of your case, and what you allegedly stole. Certain theft crimes in N.C. are considered to be misdemeanors but can be charged as a felony when the value of the property stolen is over $1,000.

The criminal law in North Carolina, N.C. General Statute 14-72, sets forth larceny of personal property that is worth more than $1,000 is a Class H felony. However, when the stolen property is $1,000 or less, it is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

When the stolen property has a value of over $1,000 or it was a burglary, robbery of a person, or theft of an explosion or firearm, then it is a felony. If a person steals multiple items during a theft event, the prosecutor can add up the values of the stolen items and can bring a felony charge if the total value is more than $1,000. Other larceny crimes in North Carolina include:

  • Removal of a shopping cart from a store
  • Concealment of merchandise in a store (shoplifting)
  • Felony larceny of motor parts
  • Larceny of gasoline at a gas station

When Larceny is a Class H Felony

A conviction for most theft crimes can have long-term consequences. In North Carolina, Class H felonies are punishable by up to 39 months in prison. The potential punishments for felony larceny are substantially more burdensome than misdemeanor larceny or other petty misdemeanors. 

In court, punishments may include things like:

  • Jail or prison time
  • Probation
  • Community service
  • Paying restitution
  • Fines imposed by the court
  • Costs of court
  • Probation supervision fees
  • Permanent record with the inability to purge or expunge.

There are additional consequences outside the court that make it difficult for a person convicted of larceny. Things like finding a job or housing can be tougher. Child custody and visitation can be affected. You can have professional licenses revoked as well.

Schedule a Consultation with Our Attorneys for Larceny and Theft

If you have been charged with larceny or theft, you need legal representation who can advocate for you. The attorneys at Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh care about the outcome of your case. We will fight for your rights. To request a free case consultation with a Raleigh criminal defense lawyer, call us at (919) 845-6688 or fill out our easy-to-use contact form. We look forward to speaking with you.