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Understanding Petit Larceny in Virginia

What is Petit Larceny?

In Virginia, petit larceny stands as the most common charge when dealing with theft offenses. It involves the wrongful taking of another’s goods without their consent, with the intent to permanently deprive them of those goods. If you find yourself accused of petit larceny in Fairfax, Prince William, Arlington, or Alexandria, Dischley Law is here to help you fight these charges with determination and expertise.

Common Scenarios Leading to Petit Larceny Accusations

Shoplifting frequently leads to a petit larceny charge. While various scenarios can result in this accusation, it is important to recognize that despite laws specifically targeting shoplifting—such as concealment of goods or altering prices—many cases are simply prosecuted as petit larceny. Understanding the nuances of these charges is crucial, and having skilled legal support can make all the difference.

Potential Consequences

Petit larceny is classified as a class 1 misdemeanor, carrying a potential punishment of up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. However, first-time offenders often receive lighter penalties, such as fines or shorter jail sentences. In some areas, such as Alexandria, Fairfax, Prince William and Arlington, courts offer first offender programs for those with clean records. These programs might include community service and educational classes. Successful completion can lead to dismissal of charges without a conviction, providing a fresh start.

Factors Influencing Sentencing

Sentences can vary greatly based on several factors:

Criminal Record: If you have a clean record, you might receive a lighter sentence. However, if you’re a repeat offender, brace yourself for harsher penalties. With two prior convictions, a third offense could be charged as grand larceny, bringing much stiffer consequences.

Jurisdiction: The location of your case matters. Judges in Fairfax might hand down different sentences than those in Prince William or Arlington. Knowing the tendencies and inclinations of local judges can be the key to your case.

Starting July 1, 2020, Virginia law empowers judges to dismiss petit larceny or grand larceny charges after a probation period for first-time offenders with no prior felony convictions (Va Code Ann. §19.2-303.2). But remember, this doesn’t automatically wipe the charge from your record. That’s why having an attorney who can argue for the best possible resolution is essential.

Defending Against Petit Larceny Charges

There are several formidable defenses against petit larceny charges:

Intent: The prosecution must establish that you intended to permanently deprive the owner of their property. If you accidentally left a store with an item and planned to return it, this lack of intent could be a robust defense.

Taking: There must be conclusive evidence that you actually took the item. If an item was mistakenly placed in your bag, this lack of direct action on your part can serve as a strong defense.

Remember, in the arena of law, it's not just the facts that matter but the ability to present them compellingly and persuasively.

Why Legal Support is Crucial

Navigating petit larceny charges can be daunting, but you don’t have to do it alone. An experienced attorney can provide invaluable support, advocating for the best possible outcome and helping you understand your options. Whether it’s arguing for a dismissal, negotiating a fair penalty, or exploring alternative programs, having a knowledgeable advocate in your corner makes a significant difference.

Video Transcript

Hi, my name is Patrick O' Brien and I am coming to you today with a short video on petit larceny and shoplifting.

I want to start here because you are probably watching this video in the middle of a total freakout because are terrified you have ruined your life and will forever be branded a thief because of this charge.

Let me hopefully calm things down a little bit.

Depending on your circumstances, especially if this is the first time you have ever been charged with an offense of this nature, it is highly likely we will be able to get the charge dismissed either on your initial court date or through a deferred disposition. A deferred dispotion is when even though the Court finds there is sufficient evidence to find you guilty, will give you an opportunity to get the charged dismissed after a period of time and the completion of certain conditions.

Our clients are often able to expunge these charges and move forward without this stain on their record.

Some initial information. Petit Larceny and Shoplifting are often used interchangeably to describe the act of taking items from a store without paying for them. We say petit larceny because we just love our latin in the commonwealth and we are sticking to those guns no matter how dead the language is.

Some things to know. Generally, a court will want to know if the items in question were taken past all points of sale, put simply, did a person pass by all the cash registers without paying for an item.

One twist on that, they don?t actually need to prove a person passed all points of sale if there is some proof that person intended to steal the items. For example, if a person removes price tags tags and placed the item in their coat this could be sufficient evidence to find someone guilty.

The amount of trouble you are in is a bit of a sliding scale. One analysis point is jurisdictional. Generally, the more rural the county, the more seriously they take theft crimes.

The second analysis point is value. Courts and prosecutors will take the theft of a X-Box or PlayStation a lot more seriously than the theft of a candy bar.

Lastly, your prior record is really important. If you have never gotten charged before and have a totally clean record, your outlook is a lot sunnier than someone who calls me and has two prior larcenies on their record.

How do we combat these charges? Like every case at Dischley Law, we are going to attack it from two angles. The first is determining whether the Commonwealth can prove the charge.

We are going to review the discovery with you and determine whether there is evidence you actually took these items with the intent to steal or if this was just a mistake.

The second angle is mitigation. With a combination of community service and Shoplifting Prevention classes, we work with the prosecutor to achieve optimal outcomes. It is important to know that completing mitigation is not an admission of guilt, but rather a way to make all parties comfortable that such an event will never happen again.

With these techniques we often able to get theft charges of this nature dismissed and eventually removed from or client?s records.

If you have any questions or are charged with Petit Larceny or Shoplifting and want to discuss your case, please feel free to reach out to us at Dischley Law and we will be of service.

Thank you