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Lost or Abandoned Property: Can You Be Convicted for Larceny?

In Virginia, “theft” is called larceny. Larceny may be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the item or items taken. In most cases, larceny occurs when a person deliberately takes an item to keep. However, is it larceny when someone finds an item left behind and takes it?

WHAT IS LARCENY?

In Virginia, a person may be charged with Grand Larceny or Petit Larceny, depending on the value of the item taken.

Grand Larceny is taking money or another object with a value over $5 from a person, or taking money or objects valued at more than $500 not from a person. Taking a person’s $20 watch off their wrist would be considered Grand Larceny, and so would taking a $600 bicycle from their front yard. Taking another person’s firearm is always Grand Larceny, regardless of the firearm’s value. Grand Larceny is a felony with a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

Petit Larceny is taking money or another object with a value of less than $5 from a person, or taking money or another object valued at less than $500 not from a person. Taking $4 from a person’s pocket would be petit larceny, and so would taking their $200 headphones. Petit Larceny is a Class 1 Misdemeanor, and a person faces up to 12 months in jail and a fine up to $2,500 if convicted.

ABANDONED, LOST, OR MISLAID?

Whether you can be convicted of larceny in Virginia for taking an item that another person left behind depends on whether it was abandoned, lost, or mislaid.

Property is considered abandoned when the owner gives up any claim to it. You cannot be convicted of larceny for taking abandoned property.

Property is considered lost when the owner has not given up claim to the property but does not know where it is located. In some cases, you can be convicted of larceny for taking lost property.

Property is considered mislaid when the owner unintentionally leaves it behind but knows its last location. In some cases, you may be convicted of larceny for taking mislaid property.

IS THE OWNER IDENTIFIABLE?

The test of whether you may be charged with larceny for taking a lost or mislaid item is if the owner is identifiable. For example, if you take a mislaid purse with the owner’s driver’s license and credit cards inside, you could be charged with larceny. If you find the same purse with only cash inside and no way to reasonably identify the owner, you would not be charged with larceny.

HAVE YOU BEEN CHARGED WITH LARCENY IN VIRGINIA?

If you have been charged with Grand or Petit Larceny, you need an aggressive criminal defense attorney to fight for you in court. The experienced attorneys at S.L. England, PLLC, understand the important differences between taking an abandoned item and committing larceny. If you have been charged with larceny in Virginia or Washington, D.C., call us today at (202) 572-1020 or contact us online

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