What is the Criminal Offense of Larceny?
In North Carolina, Larceny is the unlawful taking and carrying away of the personal property of another, without consent, and with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the personal property. Larceny of goods that are more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) is a Class H felony. If the goods are valued at one thousand dollars ($1,000) or less, then the larceny is a Class 1 misdemeanor. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-72. Larceny is one of the most commonly charged non-violent offenses in North Carolina.
A Class H felony penalty applies in the following instance regardless of the value of the stolen property:
- The property is taken from someone’s person;
- The property taken is a firearm, explosive, or incendiary device;
- The property was taken as part of a burglary or breaking and entering; or
- The defendant has four prior larceny-related convictions
To be convicted of the crime of larceny, the State must prove the following five elements:
- The unlawful taking and carrying away;
- Of someone’s personal property;
- Away from the possession of another;
- Without the consent of the owner; and
- With the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property.
Larceny, Larceny by Trick, & Obtaining Property by False Pretenses
You may hear terminologies such as larceny by trick or larceny by false pretenses. “Larceny by trick” is not a crime separate and distinct from common law larceny, rather, “larceny by trick” is used to describe larceny when possession of stolen goods was obtained by trick or fraud. State v. Barbour, 153 N.C. App. 500, 503, 570 S.E.2d 126, 128 (2002). An example of this would be if you told someone you needed to borrow their car to get to the hospital, however, you did not go to the hospital and kept the car for yourself. The legal theory is that the taking was without “consent” because the personal property was provided as the result of a trick or deception. Furthermore, it is “not necessary for the State to allege the manner in which the stolen property was taken and carried away, and the words ‘by trick’ need not be found in an indictment charging larceny.” State v. Lyerly, 169 N.C. 377, 85 S.E. 302 (1915).
In North Carolina, obtaining property by false pretense is a separate charge from larceny. However, it is closely related to larceny by trick. Obtaining property by false pretenses occurs when someone (1) makes a false statement of a subsisting fact or a future fulfillment or event, (2) which is calculated and intended to deceive, (3) which does in fact deceive, and (4) by which one person obtains or attempts to obtain value from another. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-100.
How Many Types of Larceny Offenses Exist Under North Carolina Law?
The North Carolina General Assembly has codified numerous types of larceny offenses. Below is a detailed list of the types of larceny offenses in North Carolina.
|Larceny Offense||Statute||Offense Classification|
|Misdemeanor Larceny||N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-72||Class 1 Misdemeanor|
|Larceny from the Person||N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-72(b)(1)||Class H Felony|
|Larceny Committed During Burglary or B&E||N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-72(b)(2)||Class H Felony|
|Larceny of Explosive Device||N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-72(b)(3)||Class H Felony|
|Larceny of a Firearm||N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-72(b)(4)||Class H Felony|
|Larceny of Paper from State Archives||N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-72(b)(5)||Class H Felony|
|Habitual Larceny||N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-72(b)(6)||Class H Felony|
|Larceny of Motor Fuel||N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-72.5||Class 1 Misdemeanor|
|Larceny from Construction Site||N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-72.6||Class I Felony|
|Larceny of Motor Vehicle Parts||N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-72.8||Class I Felony|
|Larceny of Law Enforcement Equipment||N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-72.9||Class H or G Felony|
|Larceny from a Merchant||N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-72.11||Class H Felony|
|Larceny by Employee||N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-74||Class H Felony|
|Larceny of Chose in Action||N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-75||Class H Felony|
|Larceny of Secret Technical Process||N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-75.1||Class H Felony|
|Larceny of Public Records||N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-76||Class 1 Misdemeanor|
|Larceny, Concealment, or Destruction of Wills||N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-77||Class 1 Misdemeanor|
|Larceny of Ungathered Crops||N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-78||Class H Felony|
|Larceny of Ginseng||N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-79||Class H Felony|
|Larceny of Pine Needles or Pine Straw||N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-79.1||Class H Felony|
|Larceny of Horses, Mules, Swine, Cattle, or Dogs||N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-81||Class H or I Felony|
|Larceny of Portable Toilets or Pumper Trucks||N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-86.2||Class 1 Misdemeanor|
Sentencing & Punishment for a Larceny Conviction in North Carolina
Larceny is either felony or a misdemeanor in North Carolina.
Misdemeanor Larceny is a Class 1 misdemeanor in North Carolina. The offense is punishable from 1-120 days in jail. In lieu of a jail sentence, the court may permit the offender to be placed on supervised or unsupervised probation.
Felony Larceny is typically a Class H felony in North Carolina. If it is the first offense, it is punishable by up to 8-19 months in prison. If you have an extensive criminal history, it is punishable by up to 25-39 months in prison. Instead of a prison sentence, the court may permit the offender to be placed on probation depending on the prior record level of the offender.
As you can see from the table above, Larceny can be considered a Class 1 Misdemeanor, Class H Felony, Class I Felony, or a Class G Felony depending on the statute used by the State to charge the larceny offense.
|Offense||Punishment Class||Minimum Sentences|
|Misdemeanor Larceny||Class 1||C|
|Felony Larceny||Class H||C/I/A|
What is the Best Defense to a Larceny Charge?
It is vital that you consult an experienced attorney to determine the best defenses to larceny charges in North Carolina. Every defense depends on the facts of the case. But the following defenses may be available against larceny allegations:
- There was no severance of goods from the possession of the owner.
- The item taken was not personal property.
- There was not sufficient asportation or carrying away.
- The taking was only temporary.
- The taking was with the consent of the possessor.
- Honest belief that the property belonged to the person charged.
- There is no clear clue of an owner’s identity.
- An element required for a conviction for felony larceny is not met.
- Other affirmative defenses permitted by North Carolina law.
About the Author: Emily Almanza, a class of 2023 law student at Campbell University School of Law contributed to the drafting of this blog post.