Larceny is one of North Carolina’s various theft crimes and can come with serious consequences, such as possible jail time. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you minimize these consequences by looking at all aspects of your defense. Call Mr. Rosensteel today so that he can begin preparing your best defense.
The elements of larceny are:
- taking the property of another,
- carrying it away,
- without the owner’s consent, and
- with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property.
A larceny can be either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the property taken, as well as other circumstances.
Under North Carolina statute, a person is guilty of misdemeanor larceny when he commits a larceny of property that is valued at not more than $1000. However, if the person takes the property from the person of another or from another person’s dwelling house, then the crime is a felony, regardless of the value of the property stolen. In addition, if a person takes an explosive or incendiary device or firearm, then the crime is a felony regardless of the value of the property stolen. (G.S. 14-72)
A person who commits misdemeanor larceny is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. North Carolina statute provides that a person who commits a Class 1 misdemeanor receives a sentence between 1 day and 120 days, depending on their prior convictions. A person with no prior convictions cannot receive more than a 45-day sentence, and this sentence must be community punishment. However, it is possible for a person with one or more prior convictions to receive active jail time as a punishment.
North Carolina statute provides that a person is guilty of felony larceny when he commits a larceny of property valued at more than $1,000. In addition, larceny of property from the person of another or from another person’s dwelling house is a felony, regardless of the value of the property. If a person takes an explosive or incendiary device or firearm, then the crime is a felony, regardless of the value of the property stolen. The larceny statute also provides that a person who commits a larceny after having already been convicted of a larceny is guilty of a felony, regardless of the value of the property. (G.S. 14-72)
Felony larceny is punished as a Class H felony. Someone convicted of a Class H felony receives a sentence of between 4 and 25 months, depending on prior convictions. A person who has no prior convictions might receive community punishment, but a judge is permitted to sentence anyone convicted of a Class H felony to active jail time.
Value of Property
When the value of the property is in doubt, it is up to the jury to determine the value as part of its verdict. North Carolina courts have stated that “stolen property’s fair market value is the item’s reasonable selling price at the time and place of the theft, and in the condition in which it was when stolen.”
Taking of Property
North Carolina courts have defined the taking of property as the “severance of the goods from the possession of the owner.” For a person to sever goods from the possession of the owner, he must have the goods in his control “even if only for an instant.”
Property of Another
To commit larceny, a person must take the property of another. Therefore, if a person has a good faith belief that he has a right to the property taken, he has not committed larceny. Proving a good faith belief, however, can be difficult.
This element of the crime is satisfied by even the slightest movement of the property. North Carolina courts have held that “[a] bare removal from the place in which he found the goods, though the thief does not quite make off with them, is a sufficient asportation, or carrying away.”
A larceny does not occur if the owner of the property has consented to the taking. However, if the person taking the property has obtained the owner’s consent by a false representation or through deception then the person has committed larceny by trick.
Intent to Permanently Deprive
A person who commits larceny must have the specific intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property. If at the time of the taking, the person who takes the property intends to give it back, the taking does not constitute a larceny. However, North Carolina courts have held that the required intent can be inferred when there is “no evidence that the defendant ever intended to return the property, but instead showed a complete lack of concern as to whether the owner ever recovered the property.” For example, a person who takes and then abandons another’s vehicle shows a complete lack of concern as to whether the owner ever recovers his vehicle, and the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle can be inferred.
Recent Possession Doctrine
The recent possession doctrine allows a jury to infer larceny based on a person’s possession of stolen property. To rely on this doctrine, three elements must be shown:
- that the property was stolen,
- that the person possessed the stolen property, and
- that the person possessed the stolen property “so soon after it was stolen and under such circumstances as to make it unlikely that he obtained possession honestly.”
The possession element under the recent possession doctrine does not require actual physical possession of the property. Actual possession exists, for example, when a person has the property on his person, such as in a bag or a pocket. However, “constructive possession” is sufficient to prove the element of possession. “Constructive possession exists when the defendant, while not having actual possession, has the intent and capability to maintain control and dominion over the property.” An example of constructive possession might be a person who keeps the property in a locked storage unit.
How long is too long after the theft for possession to qualify as recent under the doctrine? There are no firm rules regarding the timing between the possession and the theft. Courts have instead required that the timing be sufficiently close so as to make it unlikely that the person obtained possession of the property honestly. Typical cases where the doctrine has been applied range from 24 hours to several days between the theft and the possession of the property. However, the North Carolina Court of Appeals applied the doctrine in a case where a defendant possessed a video camera 21 days after a break-in. A shorter period of time between the possession and the theft is required for property that is normally and commonly traded in lawful channels. When the property stolen is not normally and commonly traded in lawful channels, a longer period of time between the possession and the theft is permitted. Examples of property not normally and commonly traded in lawful channels are a unique tool and commercial restaurant equipment.
If you have been charged with larceny or a crime of any kind, contact an attorney at Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC (704) 714-1450, to discuss your options.