Virginia Theft Laws

Virginia theft laws define the charges and penalties associated with theft crimes. Learn more from expert attorney Gretchen T. Pousson.

Virginia Theft Laws


In Virginia, theft laws are broken down into several different categories. The specific crime you are charged with depends on the situation. Where you stole the item from and how much the item is worth are both factors that the government will consider when charging you with a theft-related crime.

In May of 2020, Virginia Governor Northam signed into law new theft statutes that will raise the monetary requirements for theft crimes. These new monetary thresholds went into effect on July 1, 2020. Learn everything you need to know about these new laws here or contact attorneyGretchen T. Pousson of Scrofano Law if you are facing theft charges in Virginia.


What is Larceny?

In general, Virginia theft laws use the term “larceny” to describe most theft crimes. Larceny is defined as the unlawful taking of property from the owner without the intent to return the property. What differentiates larceny from other theft crimes is the absence of violence.

Larceny is broken down into two main categories in Virginia: grand larceny and petit larceny. Other types of larceny charges include conspiracy to commit larceny and larceny with the intent to sell or distribute stolen goods. While the exact charge depends on the type of items taken, the worth of the items taken, and how the items were taken, such as a weapon, all theft charges should be taken seriously and fought relentlessly with the help of an experienced Virginia criminal defense lawyer.

Shoplifting Laws in Virginia


Among the most common types of theft in Virginia is shoplifting. Shoplifting is a type of larceny; because of this, it can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The classification of a shoplifting crime depends on the worth of the items you have been accused of taking in addition to whether you have any prior convictions.

Shoplifting is described in Virginia Code § 18.2-103 as willfully hiding or taking items (or changing the cost on items) from a store with the intent of using it without properly paying for it. This definition extends far beyond the typical “conceal-and-leave” idea of what shoplifting is.

The Virginia statute defines shoplifting more broadly to include simply switching the price tags on products to make it seem like the product you are purchasing is less expensive than it really is once you’re at the register. The statute likewise clarifies that you can be charged for shoplifting prior to leaving the store. In Virginia, it is the simple act of hiding the product with the intent to steal it that makes it shoplifting.


Virginia Shoplifting Laws

Most shoplifting crimes fall under the category of petit larceny. Previous legislation defined petit larceny as the theft of items valued at less than $200. However, starting on July 1, 2020, Virginia Code § 18.2-96 defines petit larceny as theft when the item(s) taken have a value less than $1000, or less than $5 if taken from someone’s physical person.

In general, petit larceny is a misdemeanor in Virginia. If convicted of misdemeanor petit larceny, you could face up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. However, there are other extenuating circumstances that could make your punishment more severe.

If you have a prior conviction for any type of larceny, you face a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days in jail. If you have at least two prior convictions for any type of larceny, you will be charged with felony petit larceny. If convicted of felony petit larceny, you face a mandatory minimum sentence of 1 year in prison and could face up to 5 years in prison. In some special circumstances, the judge could sentence you to a lesser penalty in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Additionally, for crimes of shoplifting, the merchant might sue you in civil court to recuperate damages for your theft.

While shoplifting and petit larceny may seem like petty crimes, a conviction can have a significant impact on your life. If you are facing shoplifting charges, please contact attorney Gretchen T. Pousson as soon as possible.

Virginia Grand Theft Laws


Other types of theft crimes, including more serious incidences of shoplifting, fall under the classification of grand larceny VA. While previous law defined the grand larceny amount to be more than $200, recent law under Virginia Code § 18.2-95 defines grand larceny as theft when the item(s) taken have a value greater than $1000. You could also be charged with grand larceny in VA if you physically take an item worth more than $5 from a person (like pickpocketing).

Grand larceny is a felony in Virginia. If you are convicted of grand larceny, you face a mandatory minimum of 1 year and up to 20 years in prison. You could also be fined up to $2,500.

Additionally, under Virginia Code § 18.2-23(b), if you help plan to commit grand larceny Virginia with someone where the value of the stolen items will be worth more than $1000, you could be charged with conspiring to commit larceny. This is a felony and, if convicted, you face a mandatory minimum of 1 year in prison and could face up to 20 years in prison, so consulting a Virginia criminal defense attorney is vital to protecting your rights, future, and freedom.

Gun Theft Virginia Laws


Another type of grand larceny in Virginia involves the theft of a gun. In Virginia, if you steal a gun, regardless of its value, you will be charged with the felony of grand larceny.

Additionally, under Virginia law, gun owners are required to report the loss or theft of a gun The theft must be reported to local law enforcement or the State Police within 2 days after he or she finds that the weapon is lost or stolen or is notified by somebody else who has “personal knowledge” of the loss or theft. Failing to report the missing weapon could lead to the gun owner being held liable for any acts perpetrated with the stolen weapon.

Gun law violations are taken extremely seriously in Virginia, especially when it concerns the theft of a firearm. In addition to his extensive experience representing individuals charged with theft crimes, attorney Gretchen T. Pousson is well-versed in weapons-related charges, offering him the unique knowledge and background to handle gun theft cases. If you or someone you know has been charged with firearm larceny in Virginia, please contact our office to schedule a consultation.

Virginia Theft Laws Specific Intent to Sell


Larceny with intent to sell is exactly what it sounds like; you stole something and the government thinks you intended to sell the items you stole. Larceny with intent to sell is a felony and, if convicted, you could face a prison sentence of 2 to 20 years.

The government can attempt to prove that you had an intent to sell stolen items in many ways. Common pieces of evidence to prove intent are if you stole multiple of the same items or if you advertised the sale of an item. For charges that require the element of intent, the Commonwealth must convince the judge or jury that you possessed the requisite intent. Often, this element will rely solely on circumstantial evidence. Because of the advocacy needed in intent type of cases, it is important to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer who knows how to best defend against possibly incriminating evidence.

Possible Defenses to Larceny in Virginia


While larceny charges, especially with regard to items of little worth, may seem like no big deal, a conviction for theft can have unfavorable effects that can follow you legally, personally, and professionally for many years. Due to the fact that theft is a crime of dishonesty, landlords, employers, and institutions of higher education tend to view theft convictions unfavorably if you are looking to advance your education, rent a home, or more forward in your career. That is why it is vital that you work with an experienced Virginia criminal defense attorney to build a comprehensive defense strategy when facing larceny charges.

A common defense method when fighting theft charges is to combat the prosecution’s claims of intent. Your attorney will perform his own investigation to look for proof that might show that you had no intention of taking the item from the alleged victim. Another technique includes arguing that you had a good faith belief that the item was really yours. If this holds true, your attorney will help you look for and present any appropriate and permissible evidence to defend your innocence.


Contact an Attorney About Theft Laws in Virginia

If you have been charged with a larceny-related crime, please do not hesitate to contact Gretchen Pousson of Scrofano Law at 703-546-9898 for a confidential case evaluation. Attorney Pousson has over a decade of experience defending clients in Virginia courts and has successfully defended a variety of theft offenses in Virginia.

The sooner you call, the sooner Attorney Pousson can begin crafting the best defense strategy for your circumstances. We will walk you through the process from start to finish and tell you all the potential outcomes. In addition, we will provide a strategy for challenging the government’s charges and help you begin to get your life back on track.


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