Larceny is the wrongful taking of another's goods with the intent of keeping them.

Larceny under common law is never applied to real property (land), or services. However, in the U.S., the Model Penal Code (MPC) states that services can be the subject of theft. Wild animals (ferae naturae) are deemed to not be the property of the owner of whatever land they are found on, so takings of wild animals are also not subject to larceny.

One can only "steal" one's own property when another has a better right to possession at the relevant time. Larceny is a crime of possession, not ownership. Thus, if a vehicle is under the possession of a mechanic, and the owner takes the vehicle, he could be guilty of larceny.

The intent required is that one intended to deprive the possessor of the property "permanently." Courts have held that "permanence" is not simply keeping forever; it can include the intent to deprive the possessor of economic significance, even if there are plans to return the property later. Although the mens rea of larceny is the intent to steal, the focus is on the loss to the possessor, not the gain to the defendant. Thus, even if the thief did not gain in the taking, it could still be classed as larceny if the possessor lost in the process. Further, the mens rea and actus reus must coincide. If one rents a car with intent to return, then decides to keep it, then there is no larceny.

  • Larceny by trick or deception occurs when the victim of larceny is tricked by a misrepresentation of fact into giving up possession of property. This should not be confused with false pretenses, where the victim is tricked into giving up title to the property. However in New York State this class of larceny is broken down in statutes into two types.
  • Grand larceny is typically defined as larceny of a significant amount of property, in some cases, it can be less. In the U.S., it is often defined as an amount valued at $200 or more. In New York, "grand larceny" refers to amounts of $1,000 or more. Grand larceny is often classified as a felony with the concomitant possibility of a harsher sentence. Sometimes, the crime can be considered serious even for trivial theft. For example, in Virginia, petit larceny (a misdemeanor) occurs when the amount stolen is less than $5, if taken from the person (such as pickpocketing or robbery) or less than $500 if not taken from the person (stealing someone's property).2 Grand larceny (a felony) occurs for a theft of only $5 or more from a person or more than $500 if not taken from the person.3


Ronin robbing a merchant's house in Japan around 1860.4

Robbery is the crime of seizing property through violence or intimidation. More precisely, at common law, robbery was defined as taking the property of another, with the intent to permanently deprive the person of that property, by means of force or fear. It should be noted, in common with most legal terms, the precise definition of robbery varies between jurisdictions. Robbery is also when there is forced intimidation placed upon the victim/victims.

Common issues in differentiating robbery from simple theft is the degree of force required and when the force is applied. However, these distinctions vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

The element of force differentiates robbery from embezzlement, larceny, and other types of theft. Piracy (robbery at sea) is a type of robbery. Armed robbery involves the use of a weapon. Aggravated robbery involves the use of a deadly weapon or something that appears to be a deadly weapon. Highway robbery or "mugging" takes place outside and in a public place such as a sidewalk, street, or parking lot. Carjacking is the act of stealing a car from a victim by force.

Informally, robbery may be used to denote other kinds of theft that are not robbery, such as burglary. People returning home and finding their possessions stolen may well exclaim, "We've been robbed!" though actually they have been burgled.


Mugging is a type of robbery, in which the perpetrator (the "mugger") accosts the victim in a public place, such as a sidewalk, street or parking lot and demands money and/or valuables through the use of force or fear. The thief will typically threaten to use a weapon such as a gun or knife. Most mugging victims are uninjured or suffer minor injuries.

The term "mugging" gained its current popularity in the United States, with New York City infamously described in the 1970s as "the mugging capital of America." However, the crime is as old as history, and among other things has been known as highway robbery, purse-snatching, or footpadding (which could be surreptitious or violent). In Victorian times the targets were wallets and gold watches. In the U.S., there was a big increase in reported street robberies and handbag snatches from the 1960s onwards as new consumer items became popular. Principal targets became valuable and popular accessories like portable audio devices, cameras, laptop computers, mobile phones, and other items that can be quickly and easily resold. Excitement, status, and gang initiation are undoubtedly important motives too.

In larger United States cities and in the United Kingdom, the news media report and cover muggings as a crime trend, and some observers blamed the news media for a moral panic in England from the early 1970s at a time when “newspaper reporting of mugging(s) emerged and became increasingly sensational.”5 Nonetheless, as recorded crime statistics, insurance claims, and national crime surveys show, street robberies remained a growing problem until they peaked at about the turn of the millennium.

Bank robbery

Bank robbery is the crime of robbing a bank. It may also be called a "bank heist" especially in the United States. It is usually accomplished by a solitary criminal who brandishes a firearm at a teller and demands money, either orally or through a written note. The most dangerous type of bank robbery is a "takeover robbery" in which several heavily armed (and armored) gang members threaten the lives of everyone present in the bank. A bank robbery can also take place during off hours when thieves try to break into the vault and steal the money.

Due to modern security measures like security cameras, armed security guards, silent alarms, exploding dye packs and SWAT teams, bank robberies are now much more difficult. Few criminals are able to make a successful living out of bank robbery over the long term since each attempt increases the probability that they will be identified and caught. Today most organized crime groups tend to make their money by other means, such as drug trafficking, gambling, loan sharking, identity theft or online scamming and phishing.

A further factor making bank robbery unattractive for criminals in the United States is the severity with which it is prosecuted. Accounts at all U.S. banks are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, a corporation of the federal government, bringing bank robbery under federal jurisdiction and involving the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Federal sentencing guidelines for bank robbery mandate long prison terms, which are usually further enhanced by the use or carrying of loaded firearms, prior criminal convictions and the absence of parole from the federal prison system. As with any type of robbery, the fact that bank robbery is also inherently a violent crime typically causes corrections administrators to place imprisoned bank robbers in harsher high-security institutions.

Nevertheless, bank robberies are still fairly common and are indeed successful, although eventually many bank robbers are found and arrested.


Penalties for theft vary on the total worth of the goods stolen and on the force used to take said goods. Repeat offenders who continue to steal may become subject to life imprisonment in certain states.6

In many of the United States muggings or street robberies are prosecuted as felonies with penalties of victim restitution and incarceration, with lifetime incarceration, without parole, for the third felony conviction pursuant to the three strikes laws.


  1. ↑ "Thief," Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved September 17, 2018.
  2. ↑ § 18.2-96. Petit larceny defined Code of Virginia. Retrieved September 17, 2018.
  3. ↑ § 18.2-95. Grand larceny defined Code of Virginia. Retrieved September 17, 2018.
  4. ↑ J. M. W. Silver, Sketches of Japanese Manners and Customs. Available online from Project Gutenberg. Retrieved September 17, 2018.
  5. ↑ Frankie Y. Bailey and Donna C. Hale, Popular Culture, Crime, and Justice (Wadsworth Pub Co, 1997, ISBN 978-0534519759).
  6. ↑ See Rummel v. Estelle, 445 U.S. 263 (1980) (upholding life sentence for fraudulent use of a credit card to obtain $80 worth of goods or services, passing a forged check in the amount of $28.36, and obtaining $120.75 by false pretenses) and Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63 (2003) (upholding sentence of 50 years to life for stealing videotapes on two separate occasions).


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