The full definition of petit larceny can be condensed to: Theft of property under $50-$500. While every state has different laws concerning petit larceny, what it almost always amounts to is a small dollar amount of property or cash stolen. While this might not sound like a serious crime, it most definitely can be, and if you have a history of this type of crime you’re going to quickly find your legal problems mounting over the years.
The lower the dollar amount of items taken, the better off you’re going to be during sentencing. Petit larceny is a misdemeanor crime and even though it usually only entails a fine and possibly 6 months in county jail (or a year if beyond a first offense), it isn’t on the level of a felony crime. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t immediately retain a lawyer if you are able to do so before your arraignment or shortly after.
Remember that petit larceny is a theft crime, so it involves some type of taking of another’s property. With petit larceny, though, it must also meet the definition that is was “carried away” by the offender. Shoplifting is an often used example of petit larceny in some cases.
Once again, this is a misdemeanor offense and will usually carry a year or less of jail time. If it’s a first offense, you’re looking at time in a county jail. Although this sounds better than “prison,” sometimes it’s not. County jails are incredibly restrictive and you can find yourself locked in a cell most of the month instead of being able to walk around free and clear like in a prison setting at times.
No one should just settle for jail time! A good lawyer will be able to explain the circumstances of your petit larceny charge and they will help you to get preferable alternatives to county jail, such as community service, paying restitution, or even probation for 6 months to a year. The probation program is there to help offenders prove themselves under a supervised setting. If you have a first offense petit larceny charge, you may even get into a diversion sentence, which allows you sometimes to complete probation under NO supervision and just avoid getting any other charges, at which time the charge more or less drops off your record.
The circumstances of your petit larceny charge will determine the defense. Sometimes offenders claim that they were unaware they were carrying away property of value (such as when you leave an item worth less than $50 in your grocery cart and someone catches you walking out with it). This would be one possible defense: That you simply didn’t know you were carrying off an item of value.
Intoxication can sometimes explain why people commit petit larceny offenses, although not every state allows you to use a “I was drunk!” defense. If your state allows this, it’s possible, though. This can be a very successful defense, especially if you were involuntarily intoxicated. In addition, you can use common defenses for any type of larcenyinvolving your charge of petit larceny. No matter what the amount of money everything is valued at, the fact is that there are common defenses that can be used in pretty much any type of larceny case, from petit larceny to grand larceny.
Never assume that any criminal charge is a minor one and that you should go it on your own. Even in misdemeanor cases, you can lose a year of your life in county jail, during which time you’re unable to work, take care of your family, or build savings toward your future. There’s nothing “minor” about losing your freedom for a year or having to pay hundreds of dollars in fines to a court after spending a year locked away in jail. This can affect your life for years to come.
If you’ve been charged with petit larceny, don’t waste time! Contact our legal offices today and let us begin helping you regain control over your legal situation.