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What are the Different Types of Larceny?

Felicia Dye
Felicia Dye

Larceny is a legal term used to refer to a crime that involves stealing. In many jurisdictions, there is more than one crime in this category. Grand and petty larceny are two closely related offenses that usually address general theft. Shoplifting is a crime that involves theft in retail situations. Larceny that occurs in the workplace or by individuals in entrusted positions may be addressed by embezzlement laws.

Grand larceny is a crime that occurs when someone takes something with the intention of depriving the rightful owner of access to it. To be charged with this offense, the item or items that the suspect is accused of taking must generally be valued at or above a given amount. This amount varies from one jurisdiction to another. In any case, the crime is usually a felony. Petty, or petit, larceny is a similar stealing crime, but it is generally a misdemeanor.

A theft must meet a certain value-threshold to be considered grand larceny.
A theft must meet a certain value-threshold to be considered grand larceny.

The reason that petty larceny is a lesser offense is because it involves thefts that do not exceed a certain amount. As such, two people can basically commit the same offense but receive different charges solely because of the value of the items taken. For example, one person may steal auto parts valued at $500 US Dollars (USD) and be charged with a felony. Another individual may steal auto parts, but because they are valued at only $250 USD, he may be charged with a misdemeanor.

Embezzlement is a type of larceny.
Embezzlement is a type of larceny.

Shoplifting is an offense that may be prosecuted under grand or petty larceny statutes. In some places, however, the law identifies this as a separate and specific offense. The crime may be divided into degrees that determine how serious a particular incident is. The value of the items stolen is generally used to make this determination and thereby to determine whether the offense will be a misdemeanor or a felony.

Shoplifting is typically considered petty larceny.
Shoplifting is typically considered petty larceny.

Many people mistakenly believe that shoplifting is limited to situations where an individual takes retail merchandise without payment. This crime is often defined much more broadly. Actions that may qualify as shoplifting include removing or altering price tags and placing items in the packages of lower-priced products in hopes of paying less than the true cost.

Embezzlement is another type of larceny. This crime generally involves incidents where people take funds or property that they have access to because of their positions. For example, an accountant may embezzle money from her employer’s bank accounts. In most cases, the schemes used to execute these crimes are more complex than simply seeing something and taking it.

Discussion Comments


@nony - I would like to point that I believe larceny law applies to digital goods. I can’t see why it wouldn’t.

Let’s say you go to a computer store and steal a shrink wrapped software product. Clearly, that’s shoplifting, is it not?

However, let’s say that instead of going to a brick and mortar establishment, you instead go online and download pirated software. Is that larceny?

We’re not used to thinking in those terms, but it’s not much different, is it? I don’t usually hear the term larceny used in that context but I argue that it’s the same. Just because the medium and method are different, it makes no difference. The outcome is the same. If more people thought about that, perhaps there would be less software piracy.


@MrMoody - I would consider it petty larceny. I can’t think of a larceny defense that would stand muster, personally, whether you claim innocence or not. If you find office pens in your pocket, just return them. Yes, we’re talking mere pennies in terms of costs, but it’s the principle that counts here.


@Mammmood - Would stealing office supplies be considered petty or misdemeanor larceny? If so, there are a lot of guilty people in this category.

Of course some people take home office supplies without intending to, like if they take pens and pads and stuff like that home. Would that still be qualified as theft? It was done in innocence.

Companies pay a lot of money for office supplies. I think it’s stipulated in a lot of employee handbooks what the employee’s responsibilities are vis-à-vis the office supplies, whether you’re talking writing implements or laptop computers.


I think that embezzlement may be the easiest kind of grand theft larceny to commit, especially if you are an accountant. As one entrusted with the company’s books, you know how to move the numbers around.

You can also pilfer a few dollars here and there for a long time before someone will eventually notice. Furthermore, the only people who will notice are people who know how to read the books.

An immediate red flag will go up if you try to steal a lot of money up front, but it’s the subtle thefts that are the hardest to detect. The accountants can do this better than anyone in my opinion.

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    • A theft must meet a certain value-threshold to be considered grand larceny.
      By: Paolese
      A theft must meet a certain value-threshold to be considered grand larceny.
    • Embezzlement is a type of larceny.
      By: Wrangler
      Embezzlement is a type of larceny.
    • Shoplifting is typically considered petty larceny.
      By: Gina Sanders
      Shoplifting is typically considered petty larceny.