How Does Virginia Define Petty Larceny?

The state of Virginia recently changed the cutoff between grand and petty larceny. In this article we cover the new, updated laws surrounding theft.
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by | Last updated Mar 17, 2020 | Published on Jul 9, 2018 | Virginia Criminal Law

As of July 1st, 2018 the Virginia code has increased the cut-off between petit and grand larceny from $200 to $500.

Stealing someone’s personal property is a crime.

This article will briefly cover how the Commonwealth of Virginia deals with cases of petty larceny, and go over the possible consequences of a conviction.

Simple vs. Compound Larceny

We can boil down Virginia’s larceny laws to two central elements: the how and the how much of the theft.

When looking at petty and grand larceny, first decide how the theft occurred. Namely, “did you steal from the body of another person?”

It is only after the how is determined that the actual monetary amounts become a factor.

For example, pickpocketing $10 in cash carries a harsher punishment than stealing $100 in gnomes from someone’s lawn.

In this way, the Virginia code divides the how into two specific definitions:

  • Simple Larceny – Theft not accompanied by an act of violence or other aggravated offense.
  • Compound/Mixed Larceny – Theft that involves an act of violence or aggravated offense.

Basically, if you steal things from “the person of another” you are guilty of compound larceny. In all other cases, you have committed simple larceny.

What is Petty Larceny?

Once you determine how the theft occurred, you can look at the actual amounts. Petty larceny generally deals with smaller value crimes such as shoplifting.

In essence, theft always results in either a petty or grand larceny charge. The difference between the two is based on the value of the things stolen.

This value can be higher or lower based on whether the crime was compound or simple.

Compound Petty Larceny

Virginia defines compound petty larceny as stealing things directly from the body of another person.

For a petty larceny charge, the stolen money and objects must be worth less than $5. The theft of anything worth more than $5 from the person of another counts as grand larceny, which holds much harsher penalties.

Simple Petty Larceny

Virginia defines simple petty larceny as stealing things from locations that are not another individual’s person. In this case, the amount must be less than $500.

Common examples of simple petty larceny include shoplifting or stealing from someone’s garden.

Theft of a Firearm

One interesting exception is in the case of firearms. Regardless of value, the theft of any firearm is always grand larceny. There are no cases where Virginia considers the theft of a firearm as petty larceny.


Petty larceny is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor. Possible outcomes include confinement in jail for not more than 12 months and/or a fine of nor more than $2,500.

However, with a proper legal defense you can often lower the fine and jail time.


The Virginia code has a very clear definition of petty larceny.

If you steal something with the value of less than $5 directly of the person of another, or commit simple larceny of anything with a value of less than $500, you have committed petty larceny.

This crime will often result in fines, as well as a chance of jail time depending on the seriousness of the offense.

However, due to the broad scope of the crime, these penalties can often be lowered with the help of an experienced attorney.

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Jacob Tingen

Jacob graduated from the University of Richmond School of Law and was accepted to the Virginia Bar in 2012. Less than 30 days after being admitted to the bar, Jacob launched his own legal practice. Read More.

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