Stealing and Larceny
Stealing generally refers to the unlawful taking of another person’s property. There are many different types of stealing offences.
The most basic offence is “larceny”, which is a crime under the common law. To prove larceny, it must be shown that:
- Property was taken and carried away.
- The property belonged to someone other than the accused.
- The owner did not consent to the property being taken.
- The accused intended to permanently deprive the owner of the property.
- The property was taken without a claim of right made in good faith.
- The property was taken dishonestly.
If you take a chocolate bar from a corner store without paying, you could be charged with larceny.
Definition of “taking” and “carrying away”
“Taking” is generally considered any interference with the property. There must be some physical movement of the property by the accused, or someone acting on their behalf.
You may be charged with larceny if you pick up a TV with the intention of stealing it, but the owners come home before you can get any further.
Examples of stealing offences
Larceny by finding
Larceny by finding occurs when a person finds property and did not take reasonable steps to find the property’s owner.
Finding and keeping a $10 note on the side of the road is unlikely to be a criminal offence. However, if you find a wallet containing $5000 and identification in it, and decide to keep the money without making an effort to return the wallet to its owner, this may be “larceny by finding”.
Larceny by bailee
Larceny by bailee occurs when property that was bailed to someone is stolen or converted. If property is “bailed to you”, this means you have possession of the property, but not ownership. For example, a valet driver may have possession of a car but not be its owner.
Steal from the person
This offence is similar to robbery, but doesn’t involve the use of force or violence. An example is pick-pocketing.
Penalties can include a fine, community correction order, intensive correction order or imprisonment. It is also possible for no conviction to be recorded under section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW).
Most larceny charges remain in the Local Court where the maximum penalty is two years imprisonment.
If the larceny charge is heard in the District Court as an indictable offence, the maximum penalty is five years imprisonment.
The maximum penalties for other types of stealing offences are set out below:
|Offence||Maximum prison sentence|
|Larceny by bailee||5 years|
|Larceny by finding||5 years|
|Steal from person||14 years|
|Stealing cattle with intent to steal||14 years|
|Stealing property in a dwelling-house||7 years|
|Stealing motor vehicle, vessel or trailer||10 years|
|Larceny by clerks or servants||10 years|