Reveal Law

Defending Petit Larceny: Know Your Options and Protect Your Rights

Petit larceny, also known as petty theft, is a crime that involves stealing property that is below a certain threshold amount. It is a common offense that can have serious consequences for those convicted.

In this article, we will explore the definition and threshold amount of petit larceny, as well as provide examples of this crime. Additionally, we will discuss various defenses that can be used to fight a petit larceny charge, including claiming actual ownership, acting with the property owner’s consent, borrowing rather than stealing, being falsely accused, and the defense of unlawful search and seizure.

Definition and threshold amount of petit larceny

Petit larceny, or petty theft, refers to the act of stealing property that is below a certain threshold amount determined by the jurisdiction. The threshold amount varies from state to state but is generally around $500.

If the value of the stolen property exceeds this limit, it may be considered grand larceny, which is a more serious offense.

Examples of petit larceny

Petit larceny can encompass a wide range of theft offenses. One common example is shoplifting, where individuals steal items from retail stores without paying for them.

Other examples include stealing someone’s wallet or purse, taking possessions from a parked car, or swiping unattended items in a public place. While these may seem like small-scale crimes, they can have significant consequences for both the victim and the perpetrator.

Defense of actual ownership

One defense against a petit larceny charge is to claim actual ownership of the stolen property. This defense relies on showing evidence that the defendant believed they had a right to the property and did not intentionally steal it.

For example, if a person mistakenly takes an identical-looking item from a public place, genuine ownership evidence of the stolen property (like a receipt or personal identification) could support their claim. Defense of acting with property owner’s consent

Another defense is to argue that the defendant had the property owner’s consent to take or use the property.

This defense often arises in situations where the defendant had a prior relationship with the owner, such as borrowing a friend’s belongings with their permission. However, it is crucial to establish clear and unambiguous consent to avoid potential misunderstandings and legal complications.

Defense of borrowing rather than stealing

In some cases, a person accused of petit larceny may argue that they were borrowing the property temporarily and intended to return it. This defense focuses on the defendant’s intent, emphasizing that they did not have the intention to permanently deprive the owner of their belongings.

For example, if someone borrowed a book and forgot to return it, they may argue that it was not an act of theft but an oversight.

Defense of being falsely accused

It is possible for someone to be falsely accused of petit larceny due to a variety of reasons, such as false accusations driven by revenge, jealousy, or even attempts to cover up other wrongdoing. This defense requires gathering evidence that casts doubt on the credibility of the accuser and shows their reasons for making false claims.

Witness testimonies, surveillance footage, or alibis can help support this defense.

Defense of unlawful search and seizure

The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement. If the evidence against the defendant was obtained through an illegal search or seizure, it may be possible to challenge the admissibility of that evidence in court.

This defense can be complex, but it focuses on the constitutional rights of the defendant and the proper procedures that law enforcement should follow.


Petit larceny is a crime that involves stealing property below a certain threshold amount. Understanding the definition and examples of this offense is crucial for both individuals and society as a whole.

Additionally, knowing the various defenses against a petit larceny charge can help defendants protect their rights and potentially avoid conviction. By considering these defenses, individuals facing petit larceny charges can seek the best possible outcome in their legal proceedings.

Role of criminal defense lawyers in larceny cases

When facing a larceny charge, it is essential to have the assistance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can provide valuable guidance throughout the legal process. Defense lawyers play a crucial role in defending individuals accused of petit larceny, ensuring their rights are protected, and working towards the best possible outcome.

In this section, we will discuss the assistance provided by defense lawyers and the importance of the attorney-client relationship in larceny cases.

Assistance provided by defense lawyers

Defense lawyers play a vital role in larceny cases by providing valuable assistance to their clients. They have in-depth knowledge of the legal system and understand the complexities of larceny laws.

Defense attorneys can help defendants navigate through each stage of the legal process, from the initial investigation to trial. One of the key areas where defense lawyers provide assistance is in gathering evidence to support the defendant’s case.

They will thoroughly review the evidence presented by the prosecution, identify any weaknesses or discrepancies, and work to challenge or suppress the evidence when appropriate. Defense lawyers may also gather their own evidence, such as surveillance footage, witness statements, or expert testimony, to counter the allegations made against their clients.

Furthermore, defense attorneys can provide strategic advice on how to approach the case. They will analyze the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged larceny and develop a tailored defense strategy that maximizes the chances of a favorable outcome.

Whether it involves negotiating a plea deal, presenting a strong defense at trial, or advocating for a reduced sentence, defense lawyers have the expertise to guide their clients through the legal process effectively.

Attorney-client relationship and communication confidentiality

The attorney-client relationship is a critical aspect of larceny cases, as it establishes a foundation of trust and confidentiality between the defendant and their lawyer. This relationship allows for open and honest communication, which is essential in building a strong defense and protecting the client’s rights.

One key aspect of the attorney-client relationship is the protection of communication confidentiality. When clients confide in their defense lawyers, these communications are protected legally.

This means that clients can openly discuss the details of their case, share any concerns or fears they may have, and provide necessary information to build an effective defense, all without fear of their words being used against them. This protection of communication confidentiality extends beyond just the conversations that occur in person or over the phone.

It also includes written communication, such as emails or letters, and even non-verbal forms of communication, like gestures or expressions. However, it’s important for clients to understand that this protection of confidentiality can have limitations.

For instance, if a client discloses their intent to commit future crimes, defense lawyers have an ethical obligation to withdraw, as they cannot aid in the commission of illegal actions. Additionally, if the client provides consent, defense lawyers may disclose information that is necessary for their own defense, such as sharing evidence with experts or investigators.

Maintaining a strong attorney-client relationship is crucial for the successful defense of larceny charges. It allows clients to trust their attorney’s judgment, share all relevant details, and work together towards a common goal.

Open and honest communication is vital, as it helps defense lawyers develop a thorough understanding of their client’s situation and craft a defense strategy that is tailored to their needs. In conclusion, defense lawyers play a critical role in larceny cases by providing valuable assistance and support to individuals facing petit larceny charges.

They gather evidence, develop defense strategies, and advocate for their clients throughout the legal process. The attorney-client relationship is an essential aspect of this defense, as it establishes trust and confidentiality, allowing for open and honest communication.

By working closely with defense lawyers, individuals can ensure that their rights are protected and that they have the best possible chance of achieving a favorable outcome in their larceny case.

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