A Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Discusses The Crime Of Larceny

In days of old, if there was a financial dispute, one might expect to be sued by whoever claimed you took, or owed, money. Well, that can still happen. However, one should also be wary of being criminally charged with the crime of larceny… in one way or another.

“Larceny” is basically another word for “theft” under the Massachusetts General Laws. According to Chapter 266of such laws, anyone ” Who steals, or with intent to defraud obtains by a false pretence, or whoever unlawfully, and with intent to steal or embezzle, converts, or secretes with intent to convert, the property of another… whether such property is or is not in his possession at the time of such conversion or secreting, shall be guilty of larceny”.

Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?

Well, not so much.

Actually, there are varying degrees of larceny. While larceny seems to simply be what we call in the outside world, “stealing”, how it was done and how much was stolen come under different sub-headings in the law and are treated differently.

Let’s take an example. Tommy Take and Shelia Concealer go into a convenience store. Tommy decides he wants a few candy bars but has no money. He stuffs the candy bars in his coat pocket. Shelia sees a neat fancy player that seems like a bargain at $190. However, it is a better bargain at $0 and so she rips off the tag, slips it into her purse and decides to simply leave with it. As they approach the door, they are stopped by the store manager, the police are called, the material is recovered and the two are charged.

“For what?”, you ask. “They never even left the store!”

“You are right”, I answer. “But, then, they do not have to. Under Section 30(a), the store does not have to wait until they actually make it outside. Further, simply by concealing and ripping off the tag of the DVD player, the statute has been violated.

Now, they did the same thing, so they get the same charges, right?

Not necessarily.

They will probably face the same charges if they are believed to have acted in a joint enterprise and are therefore each guilty of what the other did as well as what they did. Aside from that, however, they have violated the larceny laws to differing degrees. This is because of the value of the things stolen. While Tommy may simply be prosecuted for “shoplifting” at its lowest level and not punishable by jail time, Shelia is not so lucky. The value of her crime is the full misdemeanor offense of what is known as petit larceny. It is a misdemeanor for which she could technically be sent to jail. Of course, had she taken over $250 worth of items, she would be looking at a felony.

Then, of course, there are the question of their criminal records, which will most likely play apart in what the prosecutor and the court is willing to do for them.
The crime of larceny is the crime of theft. The circumstances of that theft will dictate the specific statute the act triggers.

If the larceny was done through fraud, such as by passing a bad check, the charge could be “larceny by check”. If it was a theft accomplished by sticking a gun in someone’s face and suggesting their money for their life, it is a “robbery“. If it comes from breaking into someone’s home and pilfering a bunch of valuables, it is a “burglary”.

Many examples of larceny are considered “white collar crimes“. This is especially true in business- related crimes such as fraud, embezzlement and the like. In the past, people thought that white collar crimes were “no big deal” and treated with a “slap on the wrist”. People like Bernie Maddoff have graciously provided the example of late to remind us that such is not the case.

Now, here is the good news for the investigated – the acts have to be done intentionally. In most cases, simple negligence is not enough (although it certainly is in terms of civil lawsuits). And now the bad news…

Daniel Deepockets has worked for the same company for many years. He has worked his way up the latter to a figure of prominence. In fact, he is in charge of some of the funds handled by the company. After he bought his fourth yacht, the company began to notice that it seemed to be losing money. An in-house investigation revealed that more money went into Daniel’s personal checking account than was supposed to. In fact, it seemed, Daniel’s bank statements revealed the travelogue of the funds which the company had expected would be in its accounts. And so they called the police.

But, hey, mistakes happen, right? How does the prosecution prove that this was intentional? Maybe it was bad book keeping. After all, Daniel never did very well in math back in school…! And, honest man that he is, especially since he seems to be doing so well, he now sees where the mistake must have happened and is willing to give the money back. Problem over?

Not quite.

“What do you mean, Sam”, you exclaim. “After all, ‘presumption of innocence’ and all that, right?

Well, not exactly. Remember my adage that while one may be presumed innocent (especially at trial), one is also assumed guilty (especially until trial)? Well, do you really think that everyone is going to assume that Daniel is simply the victim of his poor math skills? No, this will be an issue to played out at trial…assuming he does not plead guilty to a bevy of charges first all centered by today’s Attorney Sam’s Take focus: Larceny.

In today’s business world, many transactions are performed between states or countries through the internet. More bad news. If such was involved in Daniel’s transactions, he now has cyber-crimes added to the roster of charges facing him and the matter may be prosecuted federally.

Because of the complexities, the surface of which we could only scrape in a short blog posting, if you suspect you may be on the receiving end of an investigation into missing funds or merchandise…do yourself favor. Consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer to advise and defend you.

Now, where have I heard that before….

NOTE TO READER: I will not be posting tomorrow because of the holiday weekend. I will be back, however, on Monday (morning) for a new week of blogs. In the meantime….

Have a good, safe and law-abiding weekend and fantastic Fourth Of July!

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