Stealing and Larceny

The offence of 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.



If you are found guilty of larceny in New South Wales, 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:

OffenceMaximum prison sentence
Larceny by bailee5 years
Larceny by finding5 years
Steal from person14 years
Stealing cattle with intent to steal14 years
Stealing property in a dwelling-house7 years
Stealing motor vehicle, vessel or trailer10 years
Larceny by clerks or servants10 years


Frequently Asked Questions

In which court will larceny charges be heard?

Larceny charges will ordinarily be dealt with in the Local Court. In rare circumstances, it may be heard in the District Court, but this would usually only occur if a defendant is also charged with further more serious offences that must be dealt with by the District Court.

What is a claim of right?

A claim of right is an honestly held belief that a person is legally entitled to obtain the property, not simply some moral entitlement. A person with such a claim of right over property has a potential defence to an allegation of stealing.

What is the difference between robbery, larceny, stealing, and theft?

Stealing and theft are general terms which refer to the unlawful taking of another person’s property.

Larceny criminalises the physical taking away of tangible property.

Robbery is also a stealing offence, but unlike larceny has the element of “a threat or use of force which puts another person in fear”. It is thus considered more serious and will likely attract higher penalties.

Is it possible to steal your own property?

Yes! Larceny is an offence against lawful possession, rather than ownership. If you took your car for repairs but refused to pay the mechanic, the mechanic has lawful possession. You could be charged with stealing if you used a spare key to take your car home.

How can we help?

We are experienced in successfully defending stealing-related charges.

Book a free consultation or call us on 1300 668 484 for 24/7 legal advice.