From an early age, we’re all taught that stealing is wrong. But life is complicated. People make mistakes. People are also frequently accused of crimes they didn’t commit. Someone might get caught up in a misunderstanding when they take something they think is theirs–or mistakenly believe they have paid for. Whatever the circumstances, if you’re charged with theft in Virginia, you need a skilled attorney to keep you out of jail and keep your record clean.
How Do We Define Theft In Virginia?
Most theft in Virginia falls under the commonwealth’s larceny laws. Virginia defines larceny as “the unlawful taking of someone else’s property with the intent to deprive the owner of it permanently.” Unlike the more severe crime of robbery, larceny does not involve violence or threats of violence. Grand larceny (stealing items valued at $1,000 or more) is a felony. Petit larceny (stealing less than $1,000) is a misdemeanor. Robbery is a separate offense that involves using or threatening the use of force during a theft. Other forms of larceny outlined in the Code of Virginia include:
- Unauthorized use of a vehicle
- Embezzlement: when someone is accused of taking money, property, or other valuable items through employment or another position of trust.
- Burglary: breaking into a home, office, store, or vehicle with the intent to steal or commit a felony.
Is Shoplifting Considered Theft In Virginia?
Virginia doesn’t distinguish between shoplifting and other forms of larceny. Under Virginia law, shoplifting not only covers stealing items from a store; it also includes changing the price tag. Shoplifting is a serious crime in Virginia.
What Can Happen to Me If I Get Caught Stealing?
Grand larceny is a felony that carries between one and 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. Punishment for petit larceny can include jail time of up to 12 months and fines. Courts may be somewhat lenient for first-time offenders charged with petit larceny when it comes to jail time. However, don’t assume that jail is the only consequence. A theft conviction is still a significant stain on your record and can have a long-term impact. Some of the potential consequences of shoplifting include:
- Jail time
- Court costs and fines
- Attorney fees
- Civil liability to the store owner for stolen goods
- Being banned from the store
- A stain on your permanent record.
Because stealing is considered a “crime of moral turpitude,” a larceny conviction (even for shoplifting) can impact your life far beyond potential jail time and fines. A larceny conviction can affect your ability to:
- Get federal security clearance for work
- Join the Military
- Get a good job
- Attend the college of your choice
What Should I Do If I’m Charged with Stealing?
If you’re charged with stealing, your primary objectives are to stay out of jail and keep your criminal record as clean as possible. That’s why it’s vital to have a skilled attorney on your side. An experienced larceny defense attorney can break down your exposure to negative outcomes, understand whether the prosecution can actually prove their case, and provide you with a meaningful road of mitigation opportunities to secure the best outcome possible. A seasoned lawyer can use several strategies to break down the prosecution’s case, including:
- Questioning evidence related to your intent. Your lawyer can require the store to prove you were trying to steal. There’s often a significant gray area in shoplifting cases since you can be arrested without leaving the store. Shoplifting charges are frequently the result of a misunderstanding.
- Demonstrating that you removed items from a store on accident or thought you had paid for them.
- Proving that a person accused of stealing believed in good faith that the property in question was theirs.
- Challenging the value of items allegedly stolen.
At the Laurel Brigade Law Group, we operate under the constitutional principle that every client is innocent until proven guilty. We also understand that when it comes to nonviolent theft, many people accused of crimes are victims of circumstances or misunderstandings. We use our knowledge and extensive experience to help clients charged with theft– from grand larceny to small-time shoplifting– to obtain the best possible results. If you’re accused of stealing, reach out to an attorney as soon as you’re arrested. Early action gives you the best chance of avoiding jail time and clearing your name. Our seasoned criminal defense attorneys will help you handle every aspect of your case from arrest through the process of arraignment, motions, trial, and post-trial.