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Michigan Penal Code Section 356 (MCL 750.356): Larceny

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

“Larceny” is the unlawful taking and carrying away of someone else’s tangible personal property with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property. Larceny is Michigan’s most basic theft crime. It’s also a building block for more serious crimes. “Robbery,” for example, is a larceny accomplished through force or threat of force against another person. Similarly, “breaking and entering” is often defined as a larceny accomplished through—you guessed it—breaking and entering a building.

Larceny has four general elements, all of which the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. First, the defendant took someone else’s property.
  2. Second, the property was taken without consent.
  3. Third, there was some movement of the property. (It does not matter whether the defendant kept the property or whether the property was taken off the premises.)
  4. Fourth, the defendant intended to permanently deprive the owner of the property.

Every larceny also has a fifth element—the fair market value of the property. As explored below, the penalty for larceny depends on the value of the stolen property. The prosecution must establish the value of the property beyond a reasonable doubt.

2. Examples

A man is renovating his house. He needs a circular saw to finish the project. He goes to his neighbor’s house. The neighbor’s garage is open. The man goes in and takes the neighbor’s circular saw and returns to his house.

A woman is at a friend’s house for a party. As the party is waning, she grabs someone else’s purse and walks out the door.

3. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. Larceny from the person, MCL 750.357
  2. Retail fraud, MCL 750.356c, MCL 750.356d.

4. Defenses to Larceny

Common defenses to larceny include (1) lack of intent, (2) consent, and (3) claim of right.

Consider the man who took his neighbor’s saw. The man could claim he was just borrowing it, and so he did not intend to “permanently deprive” the neighbor of the saw. In other words, the man lacked the intent to commit larceny. Or maybe the neighbor had previously told the man that he was welcome to borrow any of his tools. In that instance, the man would claim that he had consent to take the saw.

Now take the case of the purloined purse. Suppose the woman claims that she has the same purse (same maker, same style) and that she took the purse thinking it was her own. This would be a claim of right defense. If you take something honestly believing it belongs to you, you do not have the intent to steal. Importantly, it doesn’t matter that—like the woman with the purse—you were mistaken. All that matters is that your belief was honest.

5. Penalties

Penalties for larceny are graduated based on the value of the stolen property. If the value of the property was less than $200, you’re guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail and a fine of up to $500 or 3 times the value of the stolen property, whichever is greater.

If the value of the stolen property was between $200 and $1,000, you’re guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000 or 3 times the value of the stolen property, whichever is greater.

If the value of the stolen property was between $1,000 and $20,000, you’re guilty of a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 or 3 times the value of the stolen property, whichever is greater.

If the value of the stolen property was more than $20,000, you’re guilty of a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000 or 3 times the value of the stolen property, whichever is greater.

Penalties can also be aggravated if you have prior larceny convictions.

6. Criminal Defense for Larceny

Larceny is a serious crime that can land you in jail or even prison. And even if you avoid incarceration, having a conviction on your record can hamper your ability to get a job or even housing. If you’re under investigation for or have been charged with larceny, you need to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Grabel & Associates has been in business for more than 20 years and has handled hundreds of theft cases. Our highly respected attorneys know what it takes to obtain the best result in your case.

For more information about larceny and to talk about your case, contact Grabel & Associates at (800) 342-7896.

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