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Larceny involves the theft or unlawful taking of an individual’s personal property by another individual or entity. A larceny offence can be extremely serious, carrying a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment.

For this reason, if you have been charged with larceny, you must seek an expert criminal lawyer to defend your legal matter. Despite the severity of penalties associated with larceny, many clients are often surprised at how these cases can be defended.

LY Lawyers offer you a dedicated legal team experienced in criminal law. For professional advice and quality representation in Court, contact our 24/7 hotline at 1300 595 299.

What is Larceny?

Larceny is the offence of “stealing” property without the owner’s consent, regardless of the item’s value. Larceny is also commonly referred to as ‘shoplifting’, which refers to stealing property within retail or convenience stores. 

An essential aspect of larceny is that it does not include violence. Instances that involve acts of physical violence and intimidation are charged under robbery

Larceny Crimes Act

Larceny is dealt with by Section 117 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), stating that: 

Whosoever commits larceny, or any indictable offence by this Act made punishable like larceny, shall, except in the cases hereinafter otherwise provided for, be liable to imprisonment for five years.

Larceny vs Theft

Although theft and larceny involve the same act of unlawfully taking another individual’s property, they are different. 

Theft is an umbrella term inclusive of all forms of criminal stealing; this includes:

  • Car Theft
  • Identity Theft
  • Intellectual property theft
  • Receiving Stolen Property
  • Fraud
  • Embezzlement
  • Robbery/Armed Robbery

It is important to note that larceny only involves the theft of physical property. 

What happens if you get caught shoplifting in Australia?

Under Section 100 of the New South Wales Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002, a citizen has the legal right to arrest you if they have reasonable grounds to believe that you’re committing an offence of larceny. The citizen then has a responsibility to deliver you and any property in your possession to the custody of a police officer.

It’s essential to know your rights when caught shoplifting by a citizen. NSW police state that citizens can only use reasonable force when detaining you. Furthermore, they are not legally justified to search your person or property without your permission.

In most situations, you can expect to be detained until a police officer arrives and charges you with larceny. If you have been caught shoplifting and detained by a security guard or shop owner, it is best to say nothing until consulting a legal professional. It is important not to flee or become violent, as this can lead to more damaging charges.

How Long After Shoplifting Can You Be Caught in Australia?

A person can still be charged by an officer of the law after committing larceny. If reasonable evidence is submitted to the police (for example, CCTV footage) that suggests a person has committed larceny, they will be charged and issued a court attendance notice

In the context of a citizen’s arrest, a person can only be detained if caught committing the offence or in the moments immediately after. This means that a citizen’s arrest cannot be performed in the following hours or days after the alleged offence. 

Facing Larceny Charges in Court

If you have been charged with larceny, there are a range of options that LY Lawyers can enact on your behalf. 

These being:

  • Negotiate with the prosecution to withdraw, downgrade or amend facts surrounding the larceny charge
  • Plead not guilty and defend your case in Court. 
  • Plead guilty and attempt to convince the Court to exclude a criminal conviction in your sentencing. 

Pleading Not Guilty

If you’re accused of committing larceny, there are several ways you can defend yourself. 

To be found guilty of larceny, the prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that:

  • That the property must have belonged to someone other than you;
  • You took and carried away stolen property;
  • The taking was without the consent of the owner of such property;
  • The taking of property was intended to permanently deprive the owner of such property.

Beyond this, the prosecution must also prove three metal elements of the larceny offence. These mental elements reflect that the person at the time of the alleged offence acted:

  • With the intention of permanently depriving the owner;
  • Without a claim of right; and
  • With dishonest or other fraudulent purposes.

If any of the above elements cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, then you will be found not guilty of the offence. 

Other possible defences include assessing evidence. For example, ‘CCTV’ footage can often be unclear and unable to identify the person stealing the item, so the charges could be dismissed. 

Furthermore, you will be found not guilty of larceny if you can establish any of the following to the Court: 

The claim of right is another defence that can be used against Larceny charges. Individuals will have a claim of right when they have a genuine belief of ownership over certain items, property, or money. Therefore, if you believe you had a legal entitlement to the property, you cannot be found guilty of larceny. 

Clearly, there is a range of defences available that our expert criminal law team can use to effectively dismiss any larceny offence charges brought against you. This is why it is important to remain silent if caught committing larceny, as this can be seen as an admittance of guilt.

Pleading Guilty

Pleading guilty will often reflect favourably on your case, as it demonstrates remorse and repentance. As a result, you will be entitled to receive a discount on your sentence. In most circumstances, you can expect a 25% discount on your sentencing for pleading guilty at an early stage of your Court proceedings.

Alternatively, it may be the case that one of our experienced solicitors can negotiate with prosecutors for you to plead guilty to a less severe charge. Unlike other law firms, LY Lawyers are highly skilled and experienced in dealing with the downgrading of charges.

The likely penalty for larceny charges will depend on your criminal record (if you have one), the value of the goods stolen and your personal circumstances.

Punishment For Stealing in Australia

Pursuant to the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), a person guilty of larceny can face a maximum penalty of up to 5 years imprisonment. 

Generally, penalties that a Court can impose of any criminal offence in NSW are:

The penalty extent will depend on the severity of the offence and the type of Court dealing with the matter.  

Local Court

In the Local Court, penalties are decided upon where:

  • The value of the property stolen does not exceed $5,000.00 has a maximum penalty of a fine of $5,500.00 and/or 12 months imprisonment.
  • The value of the property stolen exceeds $5,000.00 has a maximum penalty of $5,500.00 and/or 2 years imprisonment.

District Court

In the District Court, penalties are decided upon where:

  • The offence of stealing/larceny carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment. However, stealing/larceny is an offence sometimes dealt with pursuant to section 10 of the Crimes (Sentence Procedure) Act, meaning no conviction will be recorded, there is no other penalty, and you will have no criminal record.

Experts in Criminal Law: Why You Need LY Lawyers To Defend You If You Are Caught Stealing

At LY Lawyers, your case will be prepared by a team of specialist criminal lawyers and researchers to develop a winning strategy. We believe that preparation is essential to case strategy and getting the best possible outcome for your case.

All initial consultations with LY Lawyers are free, so contact us today if you’re seeking legal representation or even professional advice. 

If you would like to see if any of our successful cases match the description of your situation, we have provided examples below.

Case Studies

Our client was charged with a larceny charge at DFO at Homebush.

After a random search of our client’s bag whilst she was shopping at Burwood Westfields, police found clothing stolen from DFO a few days prior.

The police alleged that our client was the person that stole the clothing from DFO (and escaped from security) and had simply left the clothing in her bag.

Whilst the security tags were still on the clothing, and it appeared it was the same clothing that was stolen, witnesses could not provide police with an accurate description of the offender who actually stole the clothing.

The police could not prove beyond reasonable doubt that it was our client who stole the clothing.  The charges were dismissed.

Our client was charged with larceny after having stolen more than $5,000.00 from a faulty deposit box at a bank.

At the time the money was stolen from the deposit box, our client was in the process of depositing money for her own employer.

It became apparent from speaking to the client that she had a long complicated family history with her mother confiscating her wage to gamble since she was a teenager.

The evidence as to her family background was put to the court through a psychological report.

Ultimately, submissions were made that the taking of the property was the impulsive act  of a person who had never had financial independence on a account of manipulation by a family member.

The Magistrate accepted, in the circumstances, our client was unlikely to re-offend and dealt with her by way of section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act.

Our client was charged with larceny by clerk, carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. Our client worked as a chef at an exclusive hotel for over 14 years.

Whilst working he took food valued at $70.90 that was nearing the expiration date. The hotel became aware of this and reported it to police.

We assisted our client by representing him throughout the police investigation, court appearances and at the sentencing hearing subsequent to a plea of guilty.

We advised our client that this was a clear case for a section 10. However, a section 10 is always at the Magistrate’s discretion. We therefore prudently went about gathering evidence of our client’s upstanding position in the community and referees who supported our client.

At the sentence hearing in the Downing Centre Local Court the Chief Magistrate Henson was disinclined to order a section 10 due to the position of trust our client was in.

Our solicitor persistently argued to the Court that the circumstances warranted a section 10, including no prior criminal record, the unlikelihood our client would reoffend, our client’s remorse and the additional punishment a conviction would cause in hindering his future employment opportunities.

Eventually after persuasive argument, the Magistrate turned his mind and gave our client a section 10.

Our client now has a greater chance at finding new employment and remains a free man.

Our client was a Mexican Tourist charged with Larceny. He pleaded guilty to stealing an expensive pair of Armani Sunglasses.

When our client was arrested the Police seized almost $5,000.00 in cash without reasonable grounds and without recording the money in the property docket given to our client. Effectively our client had no proof the Police had his money.

Our solicitor requested the Police review their CCTV footage which proved the Police had taken the money as an exhibit. Our solicitor attended the Police Station and successfully pressured the Police to return the money.

The sentence hearing took place at Waverley Local Court before Her Honour Magistrate Sullivan. In light of our client’s good character, evidence of his remorse and the return of the sunglasses on the sentence date, Her Honour dealt with our client by way of a section 10(1)(b) bond for 12 months.

This was a great result for our client who was free to return to Mexico with all his money.

Our client was unrepresented in the local court. She pleaded not guilty then changed her plea to guilty on the day of her hearing.

Her charges were two counts of larceny (stealing). The items stolen included identification cards and $50 from inside a wallet found in the women’s bathroom of a Darling Harbour night club. The items were returned but the facts indicated this was a planned offence.

In the local court she was convicted and fined $200 for each offence. We acted for our client in a severity appeal to the Sydney District Court. Our client did not want the stigma of a criminal conviction.

The appeal was heard before His Honour Judge Lerve. His Honour was initially against allowing our client the leniency of a section 10 and the solicitor from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions made submissions against a section 10.

After hearing the argument put forward by our solicitor as to the ongoing punishment our client would suffer as a result of the convictions, particularly for offences of dishonesty, His Honour extended the leniency of a section 10(1)(b). Our client entered a bond for a period of 2 years which requires her to be of good behaviour.

This was a great result for our client.

Our client was charged with obtaining property by deception and larceny, he came to us having exhausted all his avenues. He had a strong Ice and gambling addiction which controlled his life and his offending. He had been before the Court many times and was given every opportunity he could have, including section 10 bonds, section 9 bonds, section 12 bonds, Community Service. He was then caught in the revolving door of jail, breaching in Parole terms on a constant basis and returning to custody. His record included a spike in dishonesty offences from 2007 which quickly resulted in long jail sentences, overall having spent four years in custody on and off.

With the help of our solicitor’s dedicated work, we managed to turn 10 charges of a mix of dishonesty offences, into a non-custodial sentence with a view to full time rehabilitation. Our client was sentenced to an Intensive Corrections Order with a direction his time be spent at a full time rehabilitation centre by Magistrate Still at Burwood Local Court. A great result for our client considering his extensive criminal history.