Petit or Grand Theft: Understanding Larceny Offenses in South Carolina

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Recent statistics reveal that theft offenses (otherwise known as “larceny”) in South Carolina have nearly tripled since 1960.  In 2014, there were 2,433.4 incidents of larceny-theft reported per 100,000 South Carolina citizens.  If you are charged with larceny, it is important to understand the differences between the crimes to best protect your rights.  In order to gain a better comprehension of the different levels of larceny, there are several questions you should consider.  
 

What Is Defined as Larceny in South Carolina?

 
Under South Carolina law, larceny is generally defined as the unlawful taking of property that belongs to another person, with the intent to permanently deprive that person of the property.  This means if you can prove you took property from someone with the intent of returning it, you will not be convicted of larceny.  South Carolina law also outlines specific types of theft offenses, including retail theft and timber theft.
 

What Are the Different Types of Larceny Crimes in South Carolina?

 
There are two main classifications of theft in South Carolina.  South Carolina follows the path of many other states by classifying its theft offenses based on the value of the property or services allegedly taken:
 
 

  • Petit Larceny:  Petit larceny is defined under S.C. Code Ann. § 16-13-30(A) as the theft of property or services valued at $2,000.00 or less.  An example of petit larceny includes stealing personal items like clothing or bicycles.  
  • Grand Larceny: There are two categories of grand larceny: (1) grand larceny of property or services valued at more than $2,000.00 but less than $10,000.00 and (2) grand larceny of property or services valued at more than $10,000.00.

 
 

What Must a Prosecutor Prove to Prevail on a Larceny Conviction?

 
A prosecutor must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt to successfully prevail on a larceny conviction:
 

  • Ownership of Property: The alleged victim must prove they have a possessory interest in the item taken.  For example, if someone takes your purse from your seat while you are at a concert and runs away, the crime has been committed against you.  However, if someone else leaves their purse on your seat and it is taken away, the victim is the owner of the purse.  Thus, the prosecutor must produce the true victim to successfully prosecute his claim.
  • Wrongful Taking by Defendant:  The property owner must not have given consent to the taking.  Consent by trick or deceit is not true consent.
  • Defendant Carried Property Away: The property must be taken away just far enough that they have control over the item.  For example, it is sufficient if there is only a slight movement from a store shelf out the door.
  • Defendant Had Intent to Permanently Deprive: At the time the item is taken, the defendant must have intended to keep it.  

 
In addition, the prosecutor must prove the dollar amount of the property stolen according to the classifications above beyond a reasonable doubt.  If a prosecutor fails to prove a dollar amount beyond a reasonable doubt in a grand larceny case, a defendant may still be found guilty of the lesser included offense of petit larceny instead.  
 
Further, if a prosecutor is unable to prove either level of larceny, they may still charge the defendant with receiving or possession of stolen goods.  To be convicted of receiving/possessing stolen goods, the prosecutor must prove the defendant has a stolen item and the defendant knows it is stolen.  A defendant’s knowledge that the item is stolen must similarly be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
 

What Are the Potential Criminal Penalties for Larceny Crimes in South Carolina?

 
Under South Carolina law, larceny is a graduated offense with graduated penalties to match.  This means the penalty increases with the value of the property taken.  If a defendant is convicted of petit larceny, it is considered a misdemeanor punishable by 30 days in jail.  If a defendant is convicted of grand larceny for stealing property that is worth more than $2,000.00 but less than $10,000.00, it is a considered a felony punishable by up to five years in prison or a fine at the discretion of the court.  Finally, if a defendant is convicted with grand larceny for stealing property that is worth more than $10,000.00, they may face up to 10 years in prison or a fine at the discretion of the court.  
 

Are There Any Additional Civil Penalties for Larceny Crimes in South Carolina?

 
Besides the criminal penalties associated with larceny crimes, a person convicted of shoplifting in South Carolina will also be civilly liable to a property or services owner for the following:
 

  • The retail price of the property.  If a victim is not able to recover the property in a condition suitable for sale, they can recover up to $1,500; and
  • An additional penalty of not more than the greater of three times the retail price of the merchandise or $150.

 
Also, if a defendant uses a vehicle to commit an act of larceny, that vehicle may be confiscated or forfeited pursuant to civil proceedings if the vehicle is registered to the defendant.
 

Will a Prior Conviction Affect a Current Larceny Charge?

 
Maybe.  South Carolina law does not specify what effect a prior larceny conviction will have on a subsequent charge.  However, any criminal conviction a defendant has on their record, larceny-related or otherwise, will likely result in a harsher punishment, particularly if the conviction was in the past ten years.
 

Contact an Experienced Greenville, South Carolina Criminal Defense Attorney Today

 
If you are charged with larceny, you should contact the experienced South Carolina criminal defense team of David R. Price, Jr., P.A. to help you evaluate your case and potential defenses.  We will walk through your case with you so you understand any defenses you may have.  We will discuss different potential defense strategies with you to help you select one to work towards your acquittal, mitigation of sentence, or reduction in the severity of your charges.  Contact us today for a free case evaluation.
 

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