Larceny: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Distinguish from the name Larsen.

Larceny is a form of theft. It was an offence under the common law of England and became an offence in jurisdictions which incorporated the common law of England into their own law. It has been abolished in England and Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It remains an offense in the United States, involving the taking (caption) and carrying away (asportation) of personal property.


Republic of Ireland

The common law offence of larceny was abolished[1] on 1 August 2002.[2] But proceedings for larceny committed before its abolition are not affected by this.[3]

United Kingdom

England and Wales

The common law offence of larceny was abolished[4] on 1 January 1969,[5] for all purposes not relating to offences committed before that date.[6] It has been replaced by the broader offence of theft under section 1(1) of the Theft Act 1968. This offence did incorporate some of the terminology and substance larceny.


The common law offence was codified by the Larceny Act 1916.

Northern Ireland

The common law offence of larceny was abolished[7] on 1 August 1969,[8] for all purposes not relating to offences committed before that date.[9] It has been replaced by the broader offence of theft under section 1(1) of the Theft Act (Northern Ireland) 1969.

United States

In the United States, larceny is a common law crime involving theft. Under the common law, larceny is the trespassory taking (caption) and carrying away (asportation, removal) of the tangible personal property of another with the intent to deprive him or her of its possession permanently. In almost all states, it has become a statutory crime through codification.

The elements of larceny are as follows:


Larceny is a crime against possession. The taking or caption element requires that the offender take actual physical control of the property, if but for a moment.[10] Under the common law, it was not sufficient if the offender merely deprived the victim of possession; the offender must have gained control over the property. Thus merely knocking an article from a person’s hand was not larceny if the defendant did not thereafter find it.

The control must be complete. In a famous case, the defendant removed an overcoat from a department store mannequin and began to walk away with it. The overcoat was secured to the mannequin by a chain, a fact the defendant first discovered when the chain drew taut. These actions were held not to be larceny because the defendant never had complete control over the disposition and use of the coat.[11]

The taking may be only momentary. In another famous case,[12] the defendant snatched an earring from the victim which immediately became entangled in the victim’s hair. The court held that the defendant's control over the property, although momentary, was sufficient to constitute a taking.

The taking may be either direct or indirect; that is, accomplished by the criminal himself or an innocent agent.

The equivalent term "deprive" is also sometimes used:

3. "Deprive." To "deprive" another of property means (a) to withhold it or cause it to be withheld from him permanently or for so extended a period or under such circumstances that the major portion of its economic value or benefit is lost to him, or (b) to dispose of the property in such manner or under such circumstances as to render it unlikely that an owner will recover such property.
N.Y. Penal L. § 155.00 93).[13]

Carry away

The thief must not only gain dominion over the property but must also move it from its original position. The slightest movement, a hair's breadth, is sufficient.[14] However, the entirety of the property must be moved. As one commentator noted critically this requirement is the difference between rotating a [ring] doughnut (larceny) and rotating a pie (not larceny)[15], as all of the donut is moved through rotation while the pie's exact center remains in the same place when rotated. The movement must also be an actual asportation, rather than movement in preparation. For example[16], in one case the victim had left his wheelbarrow in his yard. As was his custom he turned the wheelbarrow upside down to avoid water collecting in the tub. The defendant intending to steal the wheelbarrow turned it over but was apprehended by the owner before he could push the wheelbarrow away. The court held that the defendant's acts did not satisfy the asportation element of larceny because the movement of the wheelbarrow had merely been preparatory to the carrying away.

Personal property

From its creation [17] the subject matter of larceny has been tangible personal property, with a physical existence: items that can be seen, held, and felt (or in technical terms, property that has a “corporeal presence”). This limitation means that acts of common law larceny cannot be committed against the following:

Note: All states have enacted statutes to expand the coverage of larceny to include the items mentioned above. For example, North Carolina has statutes that make it a crime to steal choses in action, growing crops and so on.

The restriction of the scope of larceny to personal property may have practical consequences. For example, a person may "steal" a central air conditioning unit by cutting the connections to the house, removing the unit from its concrete pad and hauling the disconnected unit away in a truck. In most jurisdictions, a central air conditioning unit is considered a fixture (part of the realty); severance of a fixture from the realty would convert the fixture from real to personal property. However, the common law stated that if the severance and carrying away of a fixture were one continuous act, no larceny would occur. The defendant's actions in this example would thus merely constitute damage to real property, and would further not result in possession of stolen property since no larceny had taken place. Although most jurisdictions have filled this gap in common law larceny, a few have not.

Of Another

To be guilty of larceny the defendant must have deprived the rightful owner of possession of the property. Larceny is a crime against possession. Therefore, it is possible for the person who has title to the property to steal the property from a person who had lawful possession. For example, states provide that a person who repairs a car had a lien on the car to secure payment for the work. The lien is a possessory lien meaning the repair person has the lien as long as she maintains possession of the car. If the title owner were to take the car from the lienholder this action could be prosecuted as larceny in some jurisdictions.

Without consent

The taking must be without the consent of the owner. This means that the taking must have been accomplished by stealth, force, threat of force, or deceit. If the offender obtained possession lawfully then a subsequent misappropriation is not larceny.

Intent to steal (animus furandi)

The offender must have taken the property with the intent to steal it. Traditionally intent to steal is defined as the intent to deprive the owner of the possession of the property permanently. However, intent to steal includes other states of mind such as the intent to recklessly deprive the owner of the property permanently. A person who takes property of another under the mistaken belief that the property belongs to him does not have the requisite intent to steal. Nor does a person "intend to steal" property when he takes property intending to make temporary use of it and then return the property to the owner within a reasonable time.[22]

The object stolen must have value

Larceny protects the possession of goods – objects that have economic value. A good has economic value if it has a price; that is, the property can be sold in a market. There are objects that have no economic value and thus are not subject to larceny. Some goods are "free", such as the air we breathe, objects that could not sell at any price, or could not be given away. Examples abound - leaves that have fallen from trees, garbage, the contents of a septic tank. There are few rational people who have a desire to buy such things.

Under NY law, written instruments, utility services, and items of unascertainable value have special rules,[23] and for grand larceny in the fourth degree, a motor vehicle must have value of $100 or greater.[24] Otherwise, value is defined generally as:

the market value of the property at the time and place of the crime, or if such cannot be satisfactorily ascertained, the cost of replacement of the property within a reasonable time after the crime.
N.Y. Penal L. § 155.20 (1).[25]

Other factors


Trespass limits right of possession—that is, lawful possession prior to the act negates trespass (see embezzlement). Even if the prior owner did not have possession (as in, lost or misplaced), then he is deemed to still have constructive possession. At common law, this restriction of larceny to trespassory takings was encompassed in the doctrine of possessorial immunity. Simply put, the doctrine stated that an appropriation of personal property by a person who had lawful possession of the property was not larceny.


Asportation and taking involving physical movement of the property. Larceny under common law is never applied to real property (land), or services. However, in the U.S., the Model Penal Code (MPC) states that services can be the subject of theft. Wild animals (ferae naturae) are deemed to not be the property of the owner of whatever land they are found on, so takings of wild animals are also not subject to larceny.

Intent for larceny

The intent required is that one intended to deprive the possessor of the property "permanently." Courts have held that "permanence" is not simply keeping forever; it can include the intent to deprive the possessor of economic significance, even if there are plans to return the property later. Although the mens rea of larceny is the intent to steal, the focus is on the loss to the possessor, not the gain to the defendant.

In most of the United States the common law definitions of certain crimes have been modified. New York law retains the common law elements.[26] Quite often the general crime of theft has replaced larceny, and most related common law and statutory crimes such as embezzlement, false pretenses, robbery, and receipt of stolen property.

Larceny by trick

Larceny by trick is not an offense separate and distinct from common law larceny. The name is descriptive of the method used to obtain possession. The concept arose from Pear’s Case decided 1779.[27] The issue was whether a person who had fraudulently obtained possession of personal property (a horse) could be convicted of larceny. The chief impediment to conviction was the doctrine of possessorial immunity which said that a person who had acquired possession lawfully, that is with the consent of the owner, could not be prosecuted for larceny. Clearly the owner of the horse had given the defendant possession of the animal – he had agreed that the defendant could borrow the horse to ride to Surrey.[7] The case would seem to be have been cut and dried – the doctrine of possessorial immunity applied and the defendant was therefore not guilty of larceny. The court held that consent induced by fraud was not consent in the eyes of the law. The fraudulent act that induced the owner to transfer possession “vitiated” the consent. This concept of consent broadened the scope of larceny. Before, consent meant the voluntary relinquishment of possession and thus property was wrongfully taken only if the defendant acquired possession by stealth, force or threat of force.

The problem with the ruling in Pear’s is that it requires the prosecution to determine the defendant’s state of mind at the time she was given actual possession of the property. What a person is thinking is not the subject of direct evidence. One must resort to indirect, circumstantial evidence to determine the defendant’s intent. Unfortunately, the circumstantial evidence is often ambiguous. For example, a young man appears at a used car lot and says he is interested in buying a particular car. He tells the salesperson that his invalid father will be paying for it and asks if he can drive the car to his home to show it to his father. The salesperson agrees, gives the young man the keys, slaps on a dealer’s tag and writes a permit that allows the young man to have the car for three hours. The young man does not return after three hours; in fact, he does not return at all. The salesperson finds out that the young man did not take the car to his father’s home and that his father knows nothing about his son’s interest in buying a car. A few weeks later the car is discovered abandoned on the side of U.S. 1 in Florida. The problem is that the prosecutor must determine whether to charge the defendant with larceny, false pretense or embezzlement. He can rule out false pretense immediately because the salesperson intended to transfer possession of the car not title. The choice between larceny and embezzlement is more difficult because under Pear’s the choice depends on whether the defendant obtained possession by deceit – if so the crime is larceny (by trick); if not, the crime is embezzlement. Has the defendant deceived the dealer? It is possible that the defendant made up the entire story because he needed a car to get out of town. In that case the defendant would be guilty of larceny (by trick). However, there are many other possibilities to consider. It is possible that the defendant sincerely believed that his father would pay for the car. It is also possible that his decision not to return the car is innocent – he could have been car-jacked and forced to drive the car-jacker to Florida. It is also possible that his statement to the salesperson was true, but the young man loved the car so much he was determined to have it regardless of whether his father was willing to pay for it and he drove the car to Florida. In that case, the defendant is guilty of embezzlement not larceny because he did not deceive the salesperson to gain possession of the car. His decision to convert the car to his own use occurred after he had gained lawful possession of the car.

Why didn’t the court use the legal fiction of vitiated consent to include transactions in which the thief uses deceit to acquire both title and possession? According to Perkins, Pear’s case “made its appearance rather late in the common law of England.”[28] “Before the law had been well-settled ‘for generations’ that obtaining title by cheating was not larceny.”[29] In fact, a false pretense statute had been passed by Parliament thirty years before the Pear's decision. However, courts had interpreted the statute to require the use of a false token to perpetrate the deceit - mere words were insufficient. Thus to expand the scope of larceny to include the obtaining of title by deceit the courts would have had to ignore “generations” of precedent to the contrary. The idea of using deceit to accomplish larceny was a new innovation; “there was no precedent to the contrary.”[30]

Types of larceny by trick

Larceny by trick or deception occurs when the victim of larceny is tricked by a misrepresentation of fact into giving up possession of property. This should not be confused with false pretenses, where the victim is tricked into giving up title to the property. However in New York State this class of larceny is broken down in statutes into two types.

  • Larceny by false promise refers to where someone obtains property in exchange for a promise to do something when the person making the promise does not intend to fulfill that promise. An example would be individual A taking a down payment for doing work for individual B, and then A takes the money and runs off to the Bahamas with no intention to ever do the work.
  • Larceny by false pretenses refers to obtaining property by misrepresenting facts relating to the promise. Here, an example would be where A offers to sell his car to B when A does not actually own the car.

Grand Larceny

Grand larceny is typically defined as larceny of a more significant amount of property. In the U.S., it is often defined as an amount valued at $250 or more. In New York, Grand Larceny refers to amounts of $1,000 or more. Grand larceny is often classified as a felony with the concomitant possibility of a harsher sentence. In Virginia the threshold is only $5 if taken from a person, or $200 if not taken from the person.[31] The same penalty applies for stealing checks as for cash or other valuables.[32]

Some states (such as North Carolina) use the term "felonious larceny" instead of grand larceny.

The classification of larceny as grand or petit larceny originated in an English statute passed in 1275. Both were felonies. However, the punishment for grand larceny was death while the punishment for petit larceny was forfeiture of property to the crown and whipping. The classification was based on the value of the property taken. The offense was grand larceny if the value of the property taken was greater than twelve pence, approximately the value of a sheep in the thirteenth century.[33]

Most jurisdictions have discarded the grand/petit terminology and use value to classify larcenies as felonies or misdemeanors. "Value" means the fair market value of the property at the time and place taken. Most jurisdictions also make certain larcenies felonies regardless of the value of the property taken. For example, North Carolina General Statutes Section 14 - 72 (b)(1) makes the crime of larceny a felony "without regard to value" if the larceny is (1) from the person (2) committed pursuant to certain types of breaking or enterings (3) of any explosive or incendiary device or (4) of any firearm.[34] The modern spelling is petty larceny for the misdemeanor level.

Embezzlement is the "crime" of larceny when committed by an employee.


  1. ^ The Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001 (No.50), section 3(2) [1]
  2. ^ The Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001 (Commencement) Order 2002 (S.I. No. 252/2002), article 2(a) [2]
  3. ^ The Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001 (No.50), section 3(3)
  4. ^ The Theft Act 1968 (c.60), section 32(1)(a) [3]
  5. ^ The Theft Act 1968 (c.60), section 35(1) [4]
  6. ^ The Theft Act 1968 (c.60), section 32
  7. ^ The Theft Act (Northern Ireland) 1969 (c.16) (N.I.), section 30(1)(a) [5]
  8. ^ The Theft Act (Northern Ireland) 1969 (c.16) (N.I.), section 33(1) [6]
  9. ^ The Theft Act (Northern Ireland) 1969 (c.16), section 30
  10. ^ Originally, the caption element required an actual physical taking of the property from the victim's person. Takings accomplished by stealth or deceit were not punishable. This limitation existed because larceny's original purpose was to punish breaches of peace rather than violations of property interests
  11. ^ People v. Meyer, 75 Cal. 383 (1888).
  12. ^ King v. Lapier, 1 Leach 320, 168 Eng.Rep. 263 (1784).
  13. ^ N.Y. Penal L. § 155.00 (3), found at NY State assembly website. Retrieved october 2, 2008.
  14. ^ West Virginia v. Chambers, 22 W. Va. 779 (1883)
  15. ^ Lafave, Criminal Law 3rd ed. (West 2000) 804 n. 11
  16. ^ Boyce & Perkins, Criminal Law, 3rd ed. (1992) at 324.
  17. ^ Larceny is a common law offense. The definition of the crime, its elements, evolved into its present form by the end of the thirteenth century.
  18. ^ 4 Blackstone at 232
  19. ^ a b c d Joshua Dressler, Understanding Criminal Law, 3rd ed. (Lexis 2001) ISBN 0-8205-5027-2
  20. ^ For example, if a person stole the recipe for Coke, the crime would be larceny but the grade of the offense would be determined by the value of the paper on which the formula was recorded not the value of the recipe. See, Singer & LaFond, Criminal Law, Examples and Explanations, 4th ed. Aspen (2005) 256.
  21. ^ Boyce & Perkins, Criminal Law, 3rd ed. (1992)ISBN 0-88277-067-5
  22. ^ Lafave, Criminal Law 3rd ed. (West 2000) 812 citing Impson v. State, 47 Ariz. 573, 58 P.2d 523 (1936)
  23. ^ See N.Y. Penal L. § 155.20 (2), (3), (4), found at N.Y. state Assembly website. Retrieved October 2, 2008.
  24. ^ N.Y. Penal L. § 155.30 (8), found at N.Y. state Assembly website. Retrieved October 2, 2008.
  25. ^ N.Y. Penal L. § 155.20 (1), found at N.Y. state Assembly website. Retrieved October 2, 2008.
  26. ^ See, e.g., N.Y. Penal law sections 155.00-155.45, found at NY Assembly official web site. Accessed March 17, 2008.
  27. ^ King v. Pear, 1 Leach 212, 168 Eng.Rep. 208 (1779).
  28. ^ Boyce & Perkins, Criminal Law, 3rd ed. (1992) at 307
  29. ^ Id. at 308
  30. ^ Id.
  31. ^ § 18.2-95, Code of Virginia, 1950.
  32. ^ § 18.2-98., Code of Virginia, 1950.
  33. ^ Boyce & Perkins, Criminal Law 3rd ed. (Foundation Press 1982) 335.
  34. ^ N.C.G.S. 14 - 72(b)(1)- (6)

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

LARCENY (an adaptation of Fr. larcin, O. Fr. larrecin, from Lat. latrocinium, theft, latio, robber), the unlawful taking and carrying away of things personal, with intent to deprive the rightful owner of the same. The term theft, sometimes used as a synonym of larceny, is in reality a broader term, applying to all cases of depriving another of his property whether by removing or withholding it, and includes larceny, robbery, cheating, embezzlement, breach of trust, &c.

Larceny is, in modern legal systems, universally treated as a crime, but the conception of it as a crime is not one belonging to the earliest stage of law. To its latest period Roman law regarded larceny or theft (furtum) as a delict prima facie pursued by a civil remedy - the actio furti for a penalty, the vindicatio or condictio for the stolen property itself or its value. In later times, a criminal remedy to meet the graver crimes gradually grew up by the side of the civil, and in the time of Justinian the criminal remedy, where it existed, took precedence of the civil (Cod. iii. 8.4). But to the last criminal proceedings could only be taken in serious cases, e.g. against stealers of cattle (abigei) or the clothes of bathers (balnearii). The punishment was death, banishment, or labour in the mines or on public works. In the main the Roman law coincides with the English law. The definition as given in the Institutes (iv. 1.1) is "furtum est contrectatio rei fraudulosa, vel ipsius rei, vel etiam ejus usus possessionisve," to which the Digest (xlvii. 2. I, 3) adds "lucri faciendi gratia." The earliest English definition, that of Bracton (150b), runs thus: "furtum est secundum leges contrectatio rei alienae fraudulenta cum animo' furandi invito illo domino cujus res illa fuerit." Bracton omits the "lucri faciendi gratia" of the Roman definition, because in English law the motive is immaterial,' and the "usus ejus possessionisve," because the definition includes an intent to deprive the owner of his property permanently. The "animo furandi" and "invito domino" of Bracton's definition are expansions for the sake of greater clearness. They seem to have been implied in Roman law. Furtum is on the whole a more comprehensive term than larceny. This 1 Thus destruction of a letter by a servant, with a view of suppressing inquiries into his or her character, makes the servant guilty of larceny in English law.

difference no doubt arises from the tendency to extend the bounds of a delict and to limit the bounds of a crime. Thus it was furtum (but it would not be theft at English common law) to use a deposit of pledge contrary to the wishes of the owner, to retain goods found, or to steal a human being, such as a slave or filius familias (a special form of :urtum called plagium). The latter would be in English law an abduction under certain circumstances but not a theft. One of two married persons could not commit furtum as against the other, but larceny may be so committed in England since the Married Women's Property Act 1882. As a furtum was merely a delict, the obligatio ex delicto could be extinguished by agreement between the parties; this cannot be done in England. In another direction English law is more considerate of the rights of third parties than was Roman. The thief can give a good title to stolen goods; in Roman law he could not do so, except in the single case of a hereditas acquired by usucapio. The development of the law of furtum at Rome is historically interesting, for even in its latest period is found a relic of one of the most primitive theories of law adopted by courts of justice: "They took as their guide the measure of vengeance likely to be exacted by an aggrieved person under the circumstances of the case" (Maine, Ancient Law, ch. x.). This explains the reason of the division of furtum into manifestum and nec manifestum. The manifest thief was one taken red-handed - "taken with the manner," in the language of old English law. The Twelve Tables denounced the punishment of death against the manifest thief, for that would be the penalty demanded by the indignant owner in whose place the judge stood. The severity of this penalty was afterwards mitigated by the praetor, who substituted for it the payment of quadruple the value of the thing stolen. The same penalty was also given by the praetor in case of theft from a fire or a wreck, or of prevention of search. The Twelve Tables mulcted the non-manifest thief in double the value of the thing stolen. The actions for penalties were in addition to the action for the stolen goods themselves or their value. The quadruple and double penalties still remain in the legislation of Justinian. The search for stolen goods, as it existed in the time of Gaius, was a survival of a period when the injured person was, as in the case of summons (in jus vocatio), his own executive officer. Such a search, by the Twelve Tables, might be conducted in the house of the supposed thief by the owner in person, naked except for a cincture, and carrying a platter in his hand, safeguards apparently against any possibility of his making a false charge by depositing some of his own property on his neighbour's premises. This mode of search became obsolete before the time of Justinian. Robbery (bona vi rapta) was violence added to furtum. By the actio vi bonorum raptorum quadruple the value could be recovered if the action were brought within a year, only the value if brought after the expiration of a year. The quadruple value included the stolen thing itself, so that the penalty was in effect only a triple one. It was inclusive, and not cumulative, as in furtum. In England theft or larceny appears to have been very early regarded by legislators as a matter calling for special attention. The pre-Conquest compilations of laws are full of provisions on the subject. The earlier laws appear to regard it as a delict which may be compounded for by payment. Considerable distinctions of person are made, both in regard to the owner and the thief. Thus, by the laws of lEthelberht, if a freeman stole from the king he was to restore ninefold, if from a freeman or from a dwelling, threefold. If a theow stole, he had only to make a twofold reparation. In the laws of Alfred ordinary theft was still only civil, but he who stole in a church was punished by the loss of his hand. The laws of Ina named as the penalty death or redemption according to the wer-gild of the thief. By the same laws the thief might be slain if he fled or resisted. Gradually the severity of the punishment increased. By the laws of ZEthelstan death in a very cruel form was inflicted. At a later date the Leges Henrici Primi placed a thief in the king's mercy, and his lands were forfeited. Putting out the eyes and other kinds of mutilation were sometimes the punishment. The principle of severity continued down to the 19th century, and until 1827 theft or larceny of certain kinds remained capital. Both before and after the Conquest local jurisdiction over thieves was a common franchise of lords of manors, attended with some of the advantages of modern summary jurisdiction.

Under the common law larceny was a felony. It was affected by numerous statutes, the main object of legislation being to bring within the law of larceny offences which were not larcenies at common law, either because they were thefts of things of which there could be no larceny at common law, e.g. beasts f erne naturae, title deeds or choses in action, or because the common law regarded them merely as delicts for which the remedy was by civil action, e.g. fraudulent breaches of trust. The earliest act in the statutes of the realm dealing with larceny appears to be the Carta Forestae of 1225, by which fine or imprisonment was inflicted for stealing the king's deer. The next act appears to be the statute of Westminster the First (1275), dealing again with stealing deer. It seems as though the beginning of legislation on the subject was for the purpose of protecting the chases and parks of the king and the nobility. A very large number of the old acts are named in the repealing act of 1827. An act of the same date removed the old distinction between grand and petit larceny.' The former was theft of goods above the value of twelve pence, in the house of the owner, not from the person, or by night, and was a capital crime. It was petit larceny where the value was twelve pence or under, the punishment being imprisonment or whipping. The gradual depreciation in the value of money afforded good ground for Sir Henry Spelman's sarcasm that, while everything else became dearer, the life of man became continually cheaper. The distinction between grand and petit larceny first appears in statute law in the Statute of Westminster the First, c. 15, but it was not created for the first time by that statute. It is found in some of the pre-Conquest codes, as that of Æthelstan, and it is recognized in the Leges Henrici Primi. A distinction between simple and compound larceny is still found in the books. The latter is larceny accompanied by circumstances of aggravation, as that it is in a dwelling-house or from the person. The law of larceny is now contained chiefly in the Larceny Act 1861 (which extends to England and Ireland), a comprehensive enactment including larceny, embezzlement, fraud by bailees, agents, bankers, factors, and trustees, sacrilege, burglary, housebreaking, robbery, obtaining money by threats or by false pretences, and receiving stolen goods, and prescribing procedure, both civil and criminal. There are, however, other acts in force dealing with special cases of larceny, such as an act of Henry VIII. as to stealing the goods of the king, and the Game, Post-Office and Merchant Shipping Acts. There are separate acts providing for larceny by a partner of partnership property, and by a husband or wife of the property of the other (Married Women's Property Act 1882). Proceedings against persons subject to naval or military law depend upon the Naval Discipline Act 1866 and the Army Act 1881. There are several acts, both before and after 1861, directing how the property is to be laid in indictments for stealing the goods of counties, friendly societies, trades unions, &c. The principal conditions which must exist in order to constitute larceny are these: (1) there must be an actual taking into the possession of the thief, though the smallest removal is sufficient; (2) there must be an intent to deprive the owner of his property for an indefinite period, and to assume the entire dominion over it, an intent often described in Bracton's words as animus furandi; (3) this intent must exist at the time of taking; (4) the thing taken must be one capable of larceny either at common law or by statute. One or two cases falling under the law of larceny are of special interest. It was held more than once that a servant taking corn to feed his master's horses, but without any intention of applying it for his own benefit, was guilty of larceny. To remedy this hardship, the Misappropriation of Servants Act 1863 was passed to declare such an act not to be felony. The case of appropriation of goods which have been found has led to some difficulty. It now seems to be the law that in order to constitute a larceny of lost goods there must be a felonious intent at the time of finding, that is, an intent to deprive the owner of them, coupled with reasonable means at the same time of knowing the owner. The mere retention of the goods when the owner has become known to the finder does not make the retention criminal. Larceny of money may be committed when the money is paid by mistake, if the prisoner took it animo furandi. In two noteworthy cases the question was argued before a very full court for crown cases reserved, and in each case there was a striking difference of opinion. In R. v. Middleton, 1873, L.R. 2 C.C.R., 38, the prisoner, a depositor in a post-office savings bank, received by the mistake of the clerk a larger sum that he was entitled to. The jury found that he had the animus furandi at the time of taking the money, and that he knew it to be the money of the postmaster-general. The majority of the court held it to be larceny. In a case in 1885 (R. v. Ashwell, L.R. 16 Q.B.D. 190), where the prosecutor gave the prisoner a sovereign believing it to be a shilling, and the prisoner ' This provision was most unnecessarily repeated in the Larceny Act of 1861.

took it under that belief, but afterwards discovered its value and retained it, the court was equally divided as to whether the prisoner was guilty of larceny at common law, but held that he was not guilty of larceny as a bailee. Legislation has considerably affected the procedure in prosecutions for larceny. The inconveniences of the common law rules of interpretation of indictments led to certain amendments of the law, now contained in the Larceny Act, for the purpose of avoiding the frequent failures of justice owing to the strictness with which indictments were construed. Three larcenies of property of the same person within six months may now be charged in one indictment. On an indictment for larceny the prisoner may be found guilty of embezzlement, and vice versa; and if the prisoner be indicted for obtaining goods by false pretences, and the offence turn out to be larceny, he is not entitled to be acquitted of the misdemeanour. A count for receiving may be joined with the count for stealing. In many cases it is unnecessary to allege or prove ownership of the property the subject of the indictment. The act also contains numerous provisions as to venue and the apprehension of offenders. In another direction the powers of courts of Summary Jurisdiction (q.v.) have been extended, in the case of charges of larceny, embezzlement and receiving stolen goods, against children and young persons and against adults pleading guilty or waiving their right to trial by jury. The maximum punishment for larceny is fourteen years' penal servitude, but this can only be inflicted in certain exceptional cases, such as horse or cattle stealing and larceny by a servant or a person in the service of the crown or the police. The extreme punishment for simple larceny after a previous conviction for felony is ten years' penal servitude. Whipping may be part of the sentence on boys under sixteen.

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A vast number of acts of the Scottish parliament dealt with larceny. The general policy of the acts was to make larceny what was not larceny at common law, e.g. stealing fruit, dogs, hawks or deer, and to extend the remedies, e.g. by giving the justiciar authority throughout the kingdom, by making the master in the case of theft by the servant liable to give the latter up to justice, or by allowing the use of firearms against thieves. The general result of legislation in England and Scotland has been to assimilate the law of larceny in both kingdoms. As a rule, what would be larceny in one would be larceny in the other.

United States

The law depends almost entirely upon state legislation, and is in general accordance with that of England. The only acts of Congress bearing on the subject deal with larceny in the army and navy, and with larceny and receiving on the high seas or in any place under the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States, e.g. Alaska.


Stealing any goods, chattels, government note, bank note, or other thing in action, books of account, &c., is larceny: punishment, imprisonment for not less than one nor more than ten years if the property stolen is in value over $35. Larceny in any dwelling-house, warehouse, steamship, church, &c., is punishable by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than seven years. Larceny of a horse, mule, ass, bull, steer, cow or reindeer is punishable by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than fifteen years. Wilfully altering or defacing marks or brands on such animals is larceny (Pen. Code Alaska, § 45, 1899).


Appropriating property found without due inquiry for the owner is larceny (Penal Code, § 442). "Dogs are property and of the value of one dollar each within the meaning of the terms ' property ' and ' value ' as used in this chapter" (id. § 448). Property includes a passage ticket though never issued. Persons stealing property in another state or county, or who receive it knowing it to be stolen and bring it into Arizona, may be convicted and punished as if the offence was committed there (id. § 454). Stealing gas or water from a main is a misdemeanour.


It is larceny to steal electricity, gas or water from wires, meters or mains (L. 1903, ch. 132).

New York. - Larceny as defined by § 528 of the Penal Code includes also embezzlement, obtaining property by false pretences, and felonious breach of trust (People v. Dumar, 106 N.Y. 508), but the method of proof required to establish these offences has not been changed. Grand larceny in the first degree is (a) stealing property of any value in the night time; (b) of $25 in value or more at night from a dwelling house, vessel or railway car; (c) of the value of more than $500 in any manner; in the second degree (a) stealing in any manner property of the value of over $25 and under $500; (b) taking from the person property of any value; (c) stealing any record of a court or other record filed with any public officer. Every other larceny is petit larceny. "Value" of any stock, bond or security having a market value is the amount of money due thereon or what, in any contingency, might be collected thereon; of any passenger ticket the price it is usually sold at. The value of anything else not fixed by statute is its market value. Grand larceny, in the first degree, is punishable by imprisonment not exceeding ten years; in the second degree, not exceeding five years. Petit larceny is a misdemeanour (Penal Code, §§ 53 0 -535). Bringing stolen goods into the state knowing them to be stolen is punishable as larceny within the state (id. § 540). A "pay ticket" for removing a load of snow may be the subject of larceny and its value the amount to be paid on it. (People v. Fletcher [1906] Ito App. D. 231).


The owner of goods who takes them from a railroad company with intent to defeat its lien for transportation charges is guilty of larceny. (Atchison Co. v. Hinsdell [1907190 Pac. Rep. 800).


Larceny includes embezzlement and obtaining money by false pretences. (Rev. L. 1902, ch. 218, § 40.) The failing to restore to or to notify the owner of property removed from premises on fire is larceny (id. ch. 208, § 22). It is larceny to purchase property (payment for which is to be made on or before delivery) by means of a false pretence as to means or ability to pay, provided such pretence is signed by the person to be charged. Indictment for stealing a will need not contain an allegation of value (id. § 29). A person convicted either as accessory or principal of three distinct larcenies shall be adjudged "a common and notorious thief" and may be imprisoned for not more than twenty years (id. 31). On second conviction for larceny of a bicycle, the thief may be imprisoned for not more than five years. Larceny of things annexed to realty is punishable as if it were a larceny of personal property (id. §§ 33, 35).


Stealing "anything of value" is larceny (Bates Stats. § 6856). Tapping gas pipes is punishable by fine or imprisonment for not more than thirty days. Stealing timber having "timber dealers'" trade mark, or removing it from a stream, is punishable by a fine of not less than $20.


It is grand larceny to alter the mark or brand on an animal (L. 1905, ch. 38).


For branding or altering or defacing the brand on cattle with intent to steal, the penalty is imprisonment for not more than five years. It is larceny for a bailee to convert with intent to steal goods left with or found by him (Rev. Stats. §§ 4986, 4989).


A horse not branded, but under Code § 6861 an "outlaw," the owner being unknown, can be the subject of a larceny, having been held to be property of the state. (State v. Eddy [ 1907], 90 Pac. Rep. 641). For the third offence of such a larceny the penalty is imprisonment for life (L. 1903, ch. 86).

See also Embezzlement; Cheating; False Pretences; Robbery; Stolen Goods.

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