The tendency of people to use both the words larceny and theft while talking about crime has left many people feeling confused. While the two things
sound like different crimes, the way people talk makes them sound like the same thing.
Strangely the difference between theft and larceny varies from one state to the next. For example, in North Carolina, theft is an umbrella term that refers to all types so stealing while larceny refers to a very specific type of theft. In North Carolina, if someone is charged with larceny it means that they are being accused of stealing someone’s personal property.
California is a little different. The California legal system uses larceny as the formal term for theft. It mostly refers to the theft of property.
Once a person has been accused of larceny in California, the legal system has to decide if they should be charged with petty theft or grand theft. The biggest deciding factor between the two is the overall value of the stolen items. At this point, if the overall value of the stolen property is less than $950, the accused with be charged with petty theft. If the overall value exceeds $950, they’re facing grand theft charges.
The first time a person is convicted of petty theft in California the maximum sentence they face is six months in a county jail and/or a fine that reaches as high as $1,000. It’s not uncommon for the sentence to involve a combination of a fine and jail time.
The first time a person is convicted of grand theft in California the maximum sentence they face is three years in a California state prison and/or a fine that is as high as $10,000. It’s not uncommon for the sentence to involve a combination of a fine and jail time.