Larceny by Stealing

The crime of larceny by stealing is governed by Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 266 Section 30. In order for someone to be convicted of larceny by stealing, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  • The individual unlawfully took and carried away property;
  • The property that was taken was owned by someone other than the individual charged with the crime;
  • The individual intended to permanently deprive the owner of the property.

Each element of the crime of larceny by stealing must be discussed because each element is not as simple as it appears.

For the first element, there must be an unlawful physical transfer of the property from the owner's control or possession to the individual's control or possession. The key act that must occur is that the property must be physically transferred. However, it is very important to note that the transfer only needs to involve the slightest movement and only needs to last for a short period of time.

For the second element, the term property includes most types of personal property including data. The Commonwealth must prove that the property was owned by someone other than the individual who is being charged with the crime. It is important to note that the Commonwealth does not have to prove who owned the property in question. It must only prove that the individual charged with the crime did not own the property.

For the third element, it must be proven that the individual intended to permanently deprive the owner of the property. If the individual had an honest and reasonable belief that he or she had a legal right to the property, even if that belief was incorrect, he or she did not have the intent to steal and cannot be convicted of the crime. Also, if someone takes another person's property and disposes of it with utter indifference as to whether the owner of the property ever recovers it, this will be considered the intent to permanently deprive as well.

In Massachusetts, the sentencing for the crime of larceny varies depending on the value of the property. General knowledge can be used to determine the value of a piece of property. If the value of the stolen property is greater than $250.00, or if the property is a firearm, the individual can be punished by being sentenced to up to 5 years in the state prison or by up to 2 years in jail combined with a fine of up to $25,000.00. Larceny by stealing property worth more than $250.00 or a firearm is a felony.

If the value of the stolen property is $250.00 or less, the individual can be punished by being sentenced to up to 1 year in jail or by a fine of up to $300.00. Larceny by stealing property worth $250.00 or less is a misdemeanor.

The punishment is also increased if the individual is charged with larceny by stealing property from someone who is disabled or who is 60 years of age or older. In this instance, if the value of the stolen property is more than $250.00, the individual's sentence can be increased to up to 10 years in the state prison or up to 2.5 years in the house of correction and/or by a fine of up to $50,000.00. If the value of the stolen property is $250.00 or less, the individual's punishment can increase to up to 2.5 years in the house of correction and/or by a fine of up to $1,000.00. 

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