Understanding Theft Laws In Virginia

Theft laws in Virginia govern the theft of anyone else’s property. In Virginia, this crime is referred to as larceny. Larceny is similar to robbery in that theft is involved in both criminal activities, but larceny implies there was no force or threat involved in the theft. Common law in Virginia defines larceny as removing of someone else’s property or the unlawful taking of another person’s property without their consent and in some cases with the intention to profit by selling the property. If you are facing theft charges, consider reaching out to a criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of Faraji A. Rosenthall at 703-934-0101 today to learn more about potential defenses and have your legal questions answered.

Theft Laws In Virginia

There are several theft laws in Virginia. The separate statutes addressing theft in Virginia distinguish between the nature of what was stolen and the value of what was stolen.

Grand Larceny

Section 18.2-95 applies to Grand Larceny. Grand larceny is any person who steals money or items from another that are valued at $5 or more. It also applies to the theft of another person’s chattel valued at $1,000 or more or the theft of another person’s firearm no matter the value.

The punishment for Grand Larceny convictions is no less than one year in prison and no more than 20 years. At the discretion of the judge or jury, an individual can also be sentenced to jail for no more than 12 months, or fined up to $2,500, but not both.

Petit Larceny

Section 18.2-96 applies to Petit Larceny. Petit larceny is the theft of money or any other thing valued at less than $5. It also extends to the theft of chattel valued at less than $1,000. It is considered a class 1 misdemeanor, the punishment for which is a jail sentence of no more than 12 months and a fine up to $2,500.


Section 18.2-103 has to do with the crime of shoplifting. This includes taking possession of merchandise without the intention to pay for it as well as concealing merchandise for the same purpose. Virginia state laws also criminalize the altering of listed prices or helping someone to alter list and prices or shoplift. Buying stolen goods that you know were stolen also falls under the purview of shoplifting. In cases of shoplifting, theft laws in Virginia consider $500 worth of merchandise or less as petit larceny and anything over $500 worth of merchandise as grand larceny.

Larceny of Certain Animals and Poultry

Section 18.2-97 applies to Larceny of Certain Animals and Poultry. Any person convicted of stealing a dog, horse, cow, pony, mule, bull, steer, or calf is guilty of a class 5 felony. The penalty for a class 5 felony is punishable by between 1 and 10 years in prison.

Any person convicted of stealing poultry valued at $5 or more but valued at less than $1,000 will be convicted of a Class 6 felony. Anyone who steals a sheep, goat, swine, or lamb valued less than $1,000 is also guilty of a Class 6 felony. A Class 6 felony is considered a “wobbler”, the penalty for which can include between 1 and 5 years in prison or at the discretion of the judge or jury, a jail sentence no longer than 12 months, and a fine up to $2,500.

Larceny of Bank Notes, Checks, etc.

Section 18.2-98 applies to Larceny of Bank Notes, Checks, etc. If you steal a bank note, a check, or any other paper of value or currency, or any account books, you can be charged with larceny. If convicted your punishment is based on the value of what was stolen and can be a misdemeanor or felony.

Larceny of Things Fixed to the Freehold

Section 18.2-99 applies to Larceny of Things Fixed to the Freehold. This applies to estate in land and can be a misdemeanor or felony depending on what was stolen.

Larceny with Intent to Sell or Distribute

Section 18.2-108.01 applies to Larceny with Intent to Sell or Distribute. This refers to any case where property valued at more than $1,000 was stolen with the intent to sell or distribute that property. This is a class 5 felony the punishment for which is between 2 years and twenty years in a State Correctional Prison.

Defenses to Theft Charges

There are a number of defenses to theft charges in Virginia depending on your offense. Larceny charges in Virginia, especially for items with very little worth might not seem like a big deal. However, if convicted even for something valued at just $5, that conviction can follow you on your criminal record. Theft is viewed as a crime of dishonesty by educational institutions, employers, and landlords. As such, a theft conviction can hinder your advanced education, inhibit your ability to rent a home, and prevent you from moving forward in your career. To that end, having a comprehensive defense strategy is imperative.

Lack of Intent Defense

A common defense is the lack of intent. Most larceny charges imply intent. In this case, one defense is to argue that there was no intention to steal. A qualified attorney might argue that you had no intention of taking the item from the victim. Similarly, you can argue that you were unaware what you were taking did not belong to you or was not freely available for the taking. An attorney can help argue that you had good faith belief that what you took belongs to you

Reasonable Doubt Defense

Another common defense is to introduce reasonable doubt. Consider contacting a criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of Faraji A. Rosenthall to determine whether there is reasonable doubt that you actually engaged in the theft.

Insufficient or Inadmissible Evidence Defense

If the evidence of theft was collected in a way that violates your rights such as without a proper warrant or with unreasonable search and seizure, you can argue that the evidence should be inadmissible in court.

Contact an Experienced Attorney To Learn More About Theft Laws

Theft laws in Virginia can carry with them severe penalties. The value of the goods can mean the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony, as can the property that was stolen. Consider contacting an attorney to learn more about Virginia statutes pertaining to larceny as well as potential defenses to theft charges. When you reach out to the Law Office of Faraji A. Rosenthall at 703-934-0101, we can provide a consultation to review your situation and prepare you for what comes next.