The Difference Between Petty Larceny & Grand Larceny in VA

In 1980, Virginia lawmakers raised the threshold for grand larceny from $100 to $200. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, $200 in 1980 has the same buying power in 2014 as $577.75. Currently, under Virginia law:

  • Theft of merchandise valued at under $200 is charged as petty larceny, which is a class 1 misdemeanor.
  • Theft of merchandise valued at over $200 is charged as grand larceny, which is classified as a felony.

For reference, Virginia has the lowest petty larceny vs. grand larceny threshold in the United States. New Jersey is the only other state with a threshold of $200.

Proposed Law Change

For years now the general assembly has been attempting to increase the threshold for grand larceny from the current $200 benchmark. The most recent attempt was in January 2014 when Delegate Scott A. Surovell introduced House Bill 244.

That Bill would have changed the language of Va. Code § 18.2-96 to:

Petit larceny defined; how punished. Any person who:
1. Commits larceny from the person of another of money or other thing of value of less than $5,; or
2. Commits simple larceny not from the person of another of goods and chattels of the value of less than $200 $500, except as provided in subdivision clause (iii) of § 18.2-95, shall be deemed guilty of petit larceny, which shall be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.

However, in February 2014, the Bill was tabled in the Courts of Justice committee.

Petty & Grand Larceny Outside Virginia

39 out of 50 states have a felony larceny threshold of $500 or greater. The most prevalent thresholds in the United States are $500 and $1,000. Seventeen states have a $500 threshold and seventeen states have a $1,000 threshold. Wisconsin has the highest threshold in America with the line between petty larceny and grand larceny set at $2,500.

The Future of Larceny Laws in Virginia

A major concern that Virginia lawmakers seem to have is the possible increase in the dollar amounts of merchandise that shoplifters would steal without having to face an increased punishment. One possible proposed solution is the creation of a new larceny charge for the $200-$500 merchandise range which would be charged as an aggravated class 1 misdemeanor, and could carry with it higher fines and longer mandatory jail sentences.

For now, the line between petty larceny and grand larceny is firmly set at $200. But inevitably Virginia will need to raise that threshold in order to keep up with national legal trends, and to account for inflation.

If you have questions about a petty larceny or grand larceny charge, contact the lawyers at Winslow & McCurry at 804.423.1382.