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Laws and Penalties of Embezzlement, Grand Larceny, Petit Larceny and Shoplifting in Virginia

Theft-related crimes such as embezzlement and grand larceny may carry serious penalties in Virginia. Even apparently less serious crimes such as petit larceny and shoplifting can mean stiff consequences.

Virginia Embezzlement Charges

In Virginia, embezzlement is charged as larceny, and the penalties are the same as the penalties for larceny. Although “embezzlement” typically brings to mind a bank employee or stock broker who has quietly diverted customer or client funds for his own use. However, the definition of embezzlement in Virginia is much broader. Anyone who wrongly uses, disposes of, or conceals money or other property that has been entrusted to him as an employee, agent or bailee can be charged with embezzlement.

What is Larceny?

The Virginia statutes regarding embezzlement, grand larceny, petit larceny and other related crimes employ the term “larceny” without defining it. The general common law elements of larceny are:

  • The taking of property belonging to another
  • Without the legal right to do so
  • With the intent to permanently deprive the true owner of the property

At common law, larceny referred only to the taking of property other than directly from another person, but the Virginia grand larceny statute also covers some circumstances in which the property is taken from the person of another.

Grand Larceny v. Petit Larceny in Virginia

Grand larceny and petit larceny are distinguished by the value of the property stolen and the circumstances under which the larceny occurred. In Virginia, the theft of property valued as low as $5 may be the basis for a grand larceny charge, if the money or property was taken “from the person of another”. Larceny of money or property valued below $5 is petit larceny whether taken from the person of another or not.

When the money or property is not taken from the person of another, the crime is charged as petit larceny if the money or property taken is valued at less than $1000. Larceny of money or property valued at $1000 or more constitutes grand larceny.

Larceny of a Firearm

There is one exception to the value-based analysis described above. Simple larceny of a firearm constitutes grand larceny, regardless of the value of the firearm and even though the item is not taken from the person of another. In short, larceny of a firearm is always grand larceny.


Like embezzlement, shoplifting is punished as larceny in Virginia. Also like the embezzlement statute, the Virginia shoplifting statute is relatively broad, covering more actions than simply slipping an item into your handbag or pocket and walking out of the store. For example, the statute also makes it a crime to change price markings or switch packaging in order to avoid paying full price for the goods, as well as advising or assisting another person in any of the actions prohibited by the statute.

Whether shoplifting offenses are charged as petit larceny or grand larceny depends upon the value of the goods. If the value is less than $1000, the charge is petit larceny. When items are valued at $1000 or more, the charge is grand larceny.

Penalties for Virginia Embezzlement, Grand Larceny, Petit Larceny and Shoplifting

Since Virginia punishes embezzlement and shoplifting as larceny, the petit larceny and grand larceny statutes set forth the penalties for all of these crimes. In the case of petit larceny, the crime is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor. In Virginia, that means a possible jail sentence of up to 12 months and a fine of up to $2,500.

The penalties for grand larceny are not only much more severe, but also much more varied. Grand larceny is punishable by a term of not less than one year nor more than 20 years in prison. However, the jury (or the judge, if the case is not tried before a jury) has the option of reducing the sentencing range to up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500—the same penalty that is applied to petit larceny.

Talk to a Virginia Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you're facing Virginia embezzlement charges or some other type of larceny charge, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you sort out the charges and the penalties you may be facing. Criminal proceedings can be daunting, with unfamiliar language and procedural requirements that you may not be aware of or understand.

Don't risk lack of technical knowledge depriving you of a good defense, or making a mistake that may impact the rest of your life. Get the help you need as early in the process as possible. If you have any questions, please call or contact Law Office of Wilfred W. Yeargan online.

Areas Served by the Law Firm

The law office serves clients throughout Virginia including those in the following localities: Fairfax City; Fairfax County including Annandale, Burke, Centreville, Herndon, and Vienna; the City of Alexandria; Arlington County including Arlington; the City of Falls Church; Augusta County, including Staunton; Fauquier County including Warrenton; Frederick County including Winchester; the City of Fredericksburg; Loudoun County including Ashburn and Leesburg; Clarke County, including Berryville; Fluvanna County, including Palmyra, Prince William County including Occoquan, Triangle, Quantico, Woodbridge, Dumfries, Haymarket, and Manassas; Spotsylvania County including Lake Wilderness and Spotsylvania Courthouse; Stafford County including Stafford, Aquia Harbour, and Falmouth; Warren County including Front Royal; Shenandoah County, including Woodstock; Rappahannock County, including Washington; Madison County; Greene County, including Stanardsville; Fluvanna County, including Palmyra; Caroline County, including Bowling Green; Hanover County; King and Queen County; New Kent County; King William County; City of Hopewell; Prince George County; York County, including Yorktown; Chesterfield County; Henrico County; Westmoreland County, including Montross; King George County; Greensville County, including Emporia; Prince George's County; Dinwiddie County; and Sussex County.