Petty Larceny Law & Legal Definition


Petty larceny is the crime of theft of another's property or money under a statutorily defined value, in which the value is below the grand larceny limit. Some states divide larceny into the categories of felony and misdemeanor, rather than grand and petit.

It is usually distinguished from embezzlement and false pretenses in that the actual taking of the property is accomplished unlawfully and without the victim's consent, and along with the taking there must be a carrying-off. It is also distinguished from burglary in that the theft does not necessarily involve unlawful breaking and entering.

The following is an example of one state's statute dealing with petty larceny:
Petit larceny defined; penalty.

  1. If any person shall feloniously take, steal and carry away any personal property of another under the value of Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00), he shall be guilty of petit larceny and, upon conviction, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six (6) months or by fine not exceeding One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00), or both.
  2. If any person shall feloniously take, steal and carry away any property of a church, synagogue, temple or other established place of worship under the value of Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00), he shall be guilty of petit larceny and, upon conviction, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one (1) year or by fine not exceeding Two Thousand Dollars ($2,000.00), or both.
  3. Any person who leaves the premises of an establishment at which motor fuel offered for retail sale was dispensed into the fuel tank of a motor vehicle by driving away in that motor vehicle without having made due payment or authorized charge for the motor fuel so dispensed, with intent to defraud the retail establishment, shall be guilty of petit larceny and punished as provided in subsection (1) of this section and, upon any second or subsequent such offense, the driver's license of the person shall be suspended as follows:
  1. The person shall submit the driver's license to the court upon conviction and the court shall forward the driver's license to the Department of Public Safety.
  2. The first suspension of a driver's license under this subsection shall be for a period of six (6) months.
  3. A second or subsequent suspension of a driver's license under this subsection shall be for a period of one (1) year.
  4. At the expiration of the suspension period, and upon payment of a restoration fee of Twenty-five Dollars ($25.00), the suspension shall terminate and the Department of Public Safety shall return the person's driver's license to the person. The restoration fee shall be in addition to the fees provided for in Title 63, Chapter 1, and shall be deposited into the State General Fund in accordance with Section 45-1-23.