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Is Theft a Misdemeanor or Felony Offense in Virginia?

Many people assume that theft charges are relatively minor and that any theft offense is the kind of charge that you can easily beat or have dropped—especially for a first-time offender. While some theft charges are certainly misdemeanor offenses, it is critical to remember that even a misdemeanor conviction can have a significant impact on your life. You can face jail time, a substantial monetary fine, and the consequences of having a criminal record even after you have served your sentence. Moreover, not all theft offenses are misdemeanors. To be sure, there are a number of different kinds of theft charges that are actually felony offenses. If you are facing a felony theft offense, you can be facing a substantial term of imprisonment along with all of the other consequences of a felony conviction.

The following information explains some of the different types of theft in Virginia, and whether they are classified as a misdemeanor or felony offenses.

Grand Larceny Felony Offenses

Under Virginia law, most kinds of theft offenses fall under the classification of “larceny” charges. As such, nearly all of the theft offenses we are going to discuss here are various types of larceny offenses. The most serious kind of theft offense is grand larceny. Under Virginia law (Code of Va. § 18.2-95), grand larceny is a broad term that typically refers to the amount of money or the value of the property that a person has stolen. Until recently, the grand larceny threshold in Virginia was only $500, which meant that any theft of money or property valued at $500 or more would be a felony offense in the state.

In March, Governor Northam signed legislation that raised the felony threshold from $500 to $1,000. Now, any theft of property under $1,000 is typically charged as a misdemeanor petit offense, while theft of property worth $1,000 or more will be a grand larceny felony offense.

Misdemeanor Petit Larceny Charges

If grand larceny is used to charge a felony theft, petit larceny (Code of Va. § 18.2-96) is the offense used to charge misdemeanor theft in most cases. As we mentioned above, most thefts of property valued at under $1,000 will be charged as petit larceny. Yet this is not a minor offense. Indeed, it is still a Class 1 misdemeanor under Virginia law that can result in a jail term of up to one year and a fine of up to $2,500.

Different Kinds of Petit and Grand Larceny Charges Based on Value

In addition to the grand larceny and petit larceny-theft offenses discussed above, there are a wide variety of theft crimes under Virginia law. Whether they are charged as a misdemeanor or felony offenses depends largely on the amount or value of the property that is stolen (or that a person attempts to steal). Examples include but are not limited to the following:

  • Theft of a firearm: this is typically charged as grand larceny and as a felony offense, but Virginia law gives the court discretion.
  • Shoplifting: this is a crime that is defined under Virginia law (Code of Va. § 18.2-103) as “concealing or taking possession of merchandise” or “altering price tags” (among some other definitions). For shoplifting of merchandise worth $1,000 or more, it is grand larceny, and for shoplifting of merchandise worth less than $1,000, it is petit larceny.
  • Larceny of banknotes and checks: this is a crime that involves passing bad checks and related offenses. Whether it is charged as grand larceny or petit larceny depends on the amount—$1,000 or more is grand larceny, and under $1,000 is petit larceny in most cases.

Seek Help from a Fairfax Theft Defense Attorney

If you are facing theft charges, you need an experienced Fairfax theft defense attorney on your side.