Larceny, or theft, is one of the most common crimes in the United States. In 2019, there were 5,086,096 incidents of larceny nationwide. The average incident of larceny across the country is 1,550 per 100,000 inhabitants, while in Virginia it is 1,360 per 100,000, the 18th lowest rate among all states.

Though Virginia’s rate of larceny may be on the lower end of the spectrum, the commonwealth takes larceny seriously. If you face a theft charge, you could find yourself incarcerated for a long time depending on the value of the property stolen.

If you’ve been charged with either petit larceny or grand larceny in or around Lynchburg or Blackstone, Virginia, contact E. Gordon Peters, Jr., Attorney at Law. Gordon is an experienced criminal defense lawyer who will fight for your rights and represent you aggressively to pursue the best possible outcome.



Theft Under Virginia Law

Theft in Virginia is labeled larceny, and it has two legal definitions.

Petit larceny consists of one of these acts:

  • Stealing property with a value of less than $1,000

  • Stealing money or something of value of less than $5 from a person

Grand larceny consists of:

  • Stealing property with a value of $1,000 or more

  • Taking cash or property valued at $5 or more from a person

  • Stealing a firearm of any value

If you go into a tech store, pocket a flash drive, and walk out, that would be petit larceny. If you go into a jewelry store, try on an expensive diamond ring, and walk out while no one is looking, that would be grand larceny.

If you grab a woman’s designer handbag and run away with it, that’s grand larceny. If you take three dollars out of a person’s hand as they’re paying a street vendor, that’s petit larceny.

Petit larceny is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months of incarceration and a fine of $2,500. Grand larceny is a felony that warrants up to 20 years in prison. If it’s a first-time offense and the property is valued at only slightly more than $1,000, the judge may choose to try it as a misdemeanor.

Shoplifting has its own section in the legal code, but is still considered theft, with the value of the merchandise or property being stolen determining whether it will be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The same values pertain: less than $1,000 for a misdemeanor, and more than $1,000 for a felony.

Shoplifting, however, is more than just pocketing an item and walking out of the store. Switching price tags on merchandise or otherwise paying less than full price for the item is also considered shoplifting.

The shop owner is also entitled to recover three times the value of the property stolen as restitution, so there are civil penalties as well.

Possible Defenses and Sentencing Alternatives

In misdemeanor cases, the judge has the option to use a deferred disposition if the defendant has no prior felony convictions and has not received a previously deferred disposition for the same offense. Under this option, the defendant will be placed on probation without being found guilty.

In either a petit or grand larceny case, lack of intent, belief that the property was actually yours, or proving you had permission to take the property are often used as defenses. Duress – someone forced you into the act – is also a defense if you can prove it. You can also argue that you were high or intoxicated at the time and didn’t realize what you were doing.

If you’re charged with grand larceny, you can argue that the value of the property stolen is less than $1,000, getting your charge reduced to a misdemeanor.


A theft charge can land you behind bars and will go on your criminal record, making some aspects of life more difficult. You need an experienced, knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to help you achieve the best possible outcome. Gordon will review your case, weigh your options, and strategize the best course of action to protect your rights. He will then fight vigorously in your defense. Gordon proudly serves clients in Lynchburg, Blackstone, and throughout the counties of Amherst, Campbell, Bedford, Nottoway, Prince Edward, and Charlotte.