When you hear the word larceny, you may picture stereotypical movie scenes: a hooded thug hot-wiring and stealing a car on a dimly lit street, a masked offender making off with thousands of dollars in diamonds, or a pickpocket snatching a watch from someone’s wrist. While it’s true that all of these scenarios do fall into the category, the crime of larceny is more than just the theft of big-ticket items such as vehicles and jewelry.
Generally speaking, larceny can be defined as the “unlawful taking of property that belongs to another person, done with the intent to permanently deprive that person of the property.” Simply put, larceny in South Carolina is a fancy word for theft.
Remember that larceny is very different from robbery. Robbery involves the use of force or threatened force. Larceny does not involve forceful theft such as threatening to shoot someone.
South Carolina separates larceny into two distinct kinds of theft: petit larceny (or “petty theft”) and grand larceny (or “grand theft”). The only difference between the two is the determined value of the item(s) or service(s) stolen, and whether that value falls under or over a certain amount, which varies by location.
Petit larceny is the lowest level of larceny and, in SC, is defined as the theft of any property or services valued at $2000 or less. Petit larceny charges are normally handled in the Magistrate’s Court.
|Petit larceny (or petty theft)
||Up to 30 days jail time and/or a fine up to $1,000
Grand larceny in SC is therefore considered the theft of property or services valued at over $2,000. Depending on the amount by which that value exceeds $2,000, the punishment for the crime is different.
|Grand larceny of items valued at between $2,000 and $10,000
||Up to 5 years jail time and/or a fine at the discretion of the court
|Grand larceny of items valued at $10,000+
||Up to 10 years jail time and/or a fine at the discretion of the court
Special Statutes for Larceny Charges in SC
Theft of certain items is subject to special statutes in SC that call for their own set of penalties. Examples of such items are credit cards, bonds, livestock, dogs, motor vehicles, boats and bicycles. Shoplifting and similar methods of theft carry their own set of specific consequences, as well.
In addition to criminal charges and the penalties arising from them, civil suits may also be pursued, resulting in consequences of their own.
Effect of Prior Convictions
There are no set protocols regarding the effect of prior convictions on current theft charges in South Carolina. But keep in mind that having criminal convictions of any kind on your record—theft or otherwise—may result in more severe penalties at sentencing time.
Additionally, the crime itself and the reputation and criminal history of the offender may play a part in sentencing. Will the punishment for a third offense of petit larceny be seven days in prison—or 30? Will the fine be $100—or $1,000? Final sentencing is at the judge’s discretion, as long as the punishment falls within the legal limits.
If you’ve been charged with larceny in South Carolina, an experienced criminal attorney can help you to build a defense that will protect your rights and work toward the best possible outcome.
I’ve helped many of my clients do just that. And in doing so, I’ve found that people facing these charges often have some of the same questions, which I’ve addressed below.
Common Questions About Larceny and Theft
Understanding the difference between larceny and other theft crimes, the types or levels of larceny, and the penalties associated with each can be confusing. Below are answers to 10 questions you may have about larceny in South Carolina.
1. What’s the difference between larceny and theft?
In SC, larceny and theft are the same crime.
2. Is larceny a misdemeanor or a felony?
A larceny charge can be either.
If the value of the property or services stolen is $2,000 or less, the crime is considered petit larceny (or “petty theft”) and is a misdemeanor.
If the value of the property or services stolen is over $2,000, the crime is considered grand larceny (or “grand theft”) and is a felony offense.
3. Can grand larceny be expunged?
No. Grand larceny is a felony, and in South Carolina, the general rule is a felony cannot be expunged.
4. Will petit larceny show on my record?
Yes, petit larceny will appear on your record. Since it is a misdemeanor, you may be able to have the charge expunged or removed from your record after a period of time.
5. If charged with larceny, could I get stuck with any other charges?
You could get charged with “making, mending or possessing tools or other implements capable of being used in crime” under the South Carolina Offenses Against Property statute.
This statute addresses the use or possession of tools that were used or might be used to commit crimes—implements that are not necessarily weapons, such as a false key, picklock, nitroglycerine, etc.
6. Do I need an attorney to handle my larceny charge?
Yes! While the possibility of getting off with a fine exists, there is no way to determine what a judge is going to decide.
An attorney’s argument in mitigation is a very important part of sentencing. You need someone to stand up and fight for you; otherwise, you are rolling the dice as far as a judge’s decision.
Ready to discuss your criminal case?
I’ve helped many people with criminal cases, and I’d like to help you, too. Call me today at (803) 779-4472, or connect with me through my online contact form to discuss your situation.