Virginia Criminal Attorney is a reputable law firm that provides legal defense services to clients in Fairfax, Virginia and Northern Virginia. Our criminal defense attorneys are highly ranked and have great experience in criminal cases in Virginia. We practice defense in many areas including theft cases in Virginia. Our attorneys are aware of the seriousness of the theft cases and therefore work very hard to provide our clients with the best defense services.

What Is Theft In Virginia Law?

According to Virginia law, all crimes related to theft are referred to as larceny. The law does not provide a general definition of these crimes. Under Virginia law, theft can, therefore, be defined as an act of taking other peoples’ properties unlawfully, aiming at permanently depriving the owner of that property. Depending on the type and the value of the property stolen, or the circumstances surrounding the crime, theft can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Some of the theft-related crimes defined by the Virginia law include the following:

  • Grand larceny (Virginia Code section 18.2-95)
  • Larceny for selling or distribution (section 18.2-108.01)
  • Larceny of freehold fixed things (section 18.2-99)
  • Larceny of poultry and certain animals (section 18.2-97)
  • Larceny of checks, bank notes etc. (section 1.2-98)
  • Petit larceny (section 18.2-96)
  • Shoplifting (section 18.2-103)
  • Unlawful use of animal, vehicle, aircraft or boat section 18.2-102)
  • Embezzlement section 18.2-111)
  • Receiving stolen properties (section 18.2-108)
  • Destruction or theft of public records (section 18.2-107)

The above larceny offenses often differ from other types of theft crimes in that there is no violence involved. Theft crimes such as robbery involve the use of violence and threats.

What are the Major Theft Offenses in Virginia?

Major theft offenses under Virginia statutes are treated as felony offenses. A conviction for these crimes may result in issues on employment, security clearances or restrictions on housing choices. Due to the three strikes rule of the state, such convictions may as well result in imprisonment. Felony theft crimes may be broken into grand larceny, burglary or robbery. These crimes have different ranges depending on their severity. 

Grand Larceny Crimes in Virginia

According to the Virginia statutes, grand larceny is discussed under the Virginia Code section 18.2-95. This crime takes place when an individual steals properties or services whose value is over $200. It also occurs when an individual steals directly from another person a property whose value is $5 and above. Grand larceny also occurs when one steals a firearm valued at any dollar value.

Grand larceny differs from petit larceny in that petit larceny involves stealing of property and services whose value is less than $200, or stealing directly from a person a property whose value is less than $5. Petit larceny is, however, a Class 1 misdemeanor that can be punished by a jail term of up to 12 months, a fine of up to $2,500 or sometimes both.

Penalties for Grand Larceny Crimes

According to the Virginia Code 18.2-95, grand larceny is designated as an unclassified felony. Once convicted of grand larceny, you may face imprisonment of one (1) to twenty (20) years or a fine of up to $2,500. However, the jury can limit the imprisonment time to less than one year since the law allows them to do so if they choose to.

Potential Legal Defenses against Grand Larceny in Virginia

You or your criminal attorney can establish a defense against grand larceny charges in two ways. These two ways may be based on either the value of the property stolen or the intent to steal as follows:

  1. The attorney can argue that there was no intent to steal the property. The attorney can as well argue that the owner of the property had given consent for the defendant to take the property, or the defendant believed that they had been given the consent to take it.
  2. The criminal attorney can convince the court that the value of the property stolen was less than $5 if it was directly stolen or less than $200 if it was indirectly stolen. This could lead to the charges being reduced to Petit Larceny which is a misdemeanor offense.

Effects of the Previous Larceny Convictions

If an individual is involved in a larceny offense, whether grand larceny or petit larceny in Virginia and the individual has had a previous conviction for a felony or misdemeanor crime, they will be punished by jail confinement of not less than thirty (30) days and not exceeding twelve (12) months. This is in addition to any set fine by the court.

Furthermore, if the individual commits a third offense or subsequent larceny, according to the Virginia Code 18.2-104, the offense is raised to a Class (iii) offense. Such an offense will be punished by one (1) to five (5) years of imprisonment, or a jail term of up to 12 months in the discretion of the jury or the judge, a fine not exceeding $2, 500 or even both a jail term and a fine.

Example:

In 2001, Frank was convicted of stealing a watch worth $300 in Maryland State. In 2006, he is again convicted of larceny once more for stealing a computer worth $600 in Virginia and in 2019, he is charged with theft case for stealing a purse worth $5 in Virginia.  The theft of a $5 purse is the Frank’s third case involving theft. This third case may be treated as a felony offense. This is regardless of the value of the purse ($5) which is far below the $200 for petit larceny.

Burglary, Breaking and Entering

Burglary crimes are addressed through various statutes in judicial systems in Virginia.  A burglary can be defined as entering into a building or a residence without permission with the aim of committing a crime. This also includes breaking and entering crimes.

Penalties for Burglary, Breaking and Entering

The crime of entering into a dwelling with intent to commit arson, rape, murder or robbery is treated as a Class (iii) felony by the Virginia Code 18.2-90. Such a crime may lead to imprisonment of between five (5) to twenty (20) years and up to $100,000 of a fine. People who commit burglary with a deadly weapon are charged with Class (ii) felony which may be punished by an imprisonment of between twenty (20) years to life imprisonment, and a fine of up to $100,000.

 According to Virginia Code 18.2-91, in case the burglary took place with intent to commit another felony other than arson, robbery, rape or murder, it may be punished by imprisonment of one (1) to twenty (20) years. The jury or the judge is also allowed by the law to reduce the imprisonment time to less than one (1) year.

If an individual enters an occupied dwelling with intent to commit misdemeanor crime, the Virginia Code 18.2-92 treats the crime as a class (vi) felony. Such a crime is punished by imprisonment of between one (1) to five (5) years. The jury or the judge can as well reduce the imprisonment to less than one year. Class (vi) felonies attract a fine of up to $2,500. However, if such a crime involved a deadly weapon, it is raised to a Class (ii) felony under VA Code 18.2-93. Under this code, a person is charged with Class (ii) felony if they enter a bank while having a dangerous weapon and aiming at committing larceny.

Possession of Burglarious Tools

Possessing burglarious tools in Virginia is a crime that is treated as a Class (v) felony. A burglarious tool is any tool that could be used to aid burglary or theft. In most of the instances, the tool itself does not have anything to do with theft and has a totally innocent use.

In order to provide proof, the prosecutor must, therefore, provide evidence that the tool was actually being used for the purposes of stealing

What are the Potential Legal Defenses for Burglary?

To establish a defense against burglary, you need a well experienced criminal defense lawyer. Such a lawyer can raise arguments in two ways to mitigate your charges as follows:

  1. The attorney may argue that the defendant did not have any intention to commit either a misdemeanor or a felony when they entered a dwelling.
  2. The attorney may also raise a defense based on insufficient or lack of proof for breaking and entering. The criminal defense attorney is able to gauge the situation and determine the best defense to apply in the case.

Robbery Crimes in Virginia

In Virginia, according to the court precedent, robbery can be defined as a type of larceny in which violence is involved, or where a threat of violence is used. For instance, when an individual threatens a person using a gun to steal from them, or when an individual forcefully takes property from another person, is treated as robbery. However, one can be charged for robbery without necessarily using a weapon. One may also be charged with robbery for using intimidation to steal from another person.

Example:

Michael raises his fists at Jane and threatens to beat her in order to take her phone. Jane is intimidated and gives in while Michael takes her phone and walks away.

Under this case, Michael will be charged with robbery.

What are the Penalties for Robbery in Virginia?

According to the Virginia code 18.2-58, robbery is classified as an unclassified felony. This crime can be penalized by imprisonment of between five (5) years to life imprisonment. Robbery is also addressed under Virginia Code 19.2-97.1 among the violent crimes that fall under the three strikes rule of the state. If convicted for this crime for the third time, it can lead to compulsory life imprisonment since it is one of the most serious offenses listed under the Virginia theft laws.

Potential Legal Defenses for Robbery

The following are instances under which one can establish legal defenses against robbery:

  1. If there was no intent to steal. The defense lawyer may convince the court that the defendant did not intend to commit robbery.
  2. Absence of violence. The prosecutor is expected to provide proof beyond any doubts that the defendant used violence and intimidation. A criminal defense lawyer can use the absence of proof of violence as a basis to establish a defense against robbery charges. However, if the prosecutor provides proof that the defendant actually used intimidation and violence during the theft, the defendant may face additional charges of battery and assault on top of the robbery charges.

Meaning of the Terms Used in Larceny Defense

  • Lack of Intent- The defense attorney may use this to show that the defendant did not intend to steal at all. This is because some activities may be perceived as theft. For instance, the defendant may have had an identical backpack and accidentally picked the wrong backpack. In such a case, the defendant had no intent to steal.
  • Consent- Consent is having or believing to have a valid or an irrefutable reason to have taken the property or cash. A criminal defense attorney may also use consent to prove that the defendant did not intend to steal.
  • No Taking- For one to be charged for theft, they must have purposefully taken the property from the legal owner, the defendant must grasp, seize or hold the property with their hands. A defendant may establish a valid defense if they did not hold the property in their hands but the property was in their possession. In addition, a defendant could, however, face theft charges for influencing another person to steal property.

What Should You be Prepared for in a Larceny Case in Virginia?

Going to court when one is faced with charges could be a challenging experience if one does not know what to expect.  If it is the first time for one to face charges, the experience will depend on the court or form of larceny one is charged with. For instance, if a person is charged with petty larceny for the first time, they are not likely to face imprisonment. Such a conviction is however kept in someone’s records. This raises a red flag to the potential employers thus making it very hard for one to secure employment.  The experience is also likely to be affected by such factors as:

  • The type of property one stole
  • Whether the properties were returned or the restitution was paid
  • Whether the defendant has a repeated theft pattern
  • Where the stealing took place e.g. in someone’s house, car, or store

Depending on the jurisdictions, some courts may impose jail terms for the first petit larceny. However, a jail term for larceny is characterized by less time because larceny does not involve violence. In addition, the sentencing guidelines for such a crime are lower as compared to violent crimes. However, the court may be harsher on a person who develops a habit of stealing.

What Must a Prosecutor Prove in Theft Charges in Virginia?

Theft charges can be serious cases in Virginia. When charged with such offenses, the prosecutor is expected to convince the court beyond any doubts using some of the following facts:

  1. The defendant actually took property or properties from another person without permission to do so.
  2. The property did not belong to the defendant.
  3. The owner of the property had not given the consent for the defendant to take the property
  4. The property stolen is of some substantial value. The value of the property is in some cases used as a basis for a criminal defense lawyer to establish a defense. For instance, if an individual steals a property whose value is not easy to determine. This may happen when a property such as jewelry is stolen and the owner cannot determine its value because maybe, it was given to them as a gift.
  5. A witness can be also used to testify against a defendant. Such a witness must have seen the stolen property. Video surveillance may also be produced in court to provide evidence against a defendant.

Being convicted for theft or larceny may have very serious consequences in one's livelihood particularly in Virginia. This is regardless of whether the conviction was for petit larceny or more serious larceny crimes. This may cause difficulties in education, employment, security clearances, rights to possess firearms, voting as well as immigration.  Once charged with such crimes, it is advisable to consult a criminal defense attorney to represent you in the court.

Finding a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Virginia Criminal Attorney law firm is where you can get an experienced lawyer when faced with theft charges in Virginia. Our lawyers are able to evaluate the situation of your case and establish legal defenses to mitigate the charges.  Your charges may, therefore, be dismissed or reduced to lesser offenses. If you need our help, do not hesitate to call us today on our phone number 703-718-5533 and talk to one of our lawyers. We are always ready and willing to speak to you.