CONTANT LAW, P.C.

How Is Theft Or Larceny Defined In Massachusetts?


Massachusetts follows the common law definition. Larceny is the taking and carrying away the property of another with the intent to permanently deprive them of it. It basically means that you’re taking stuff with no intention of ever giving it back. Larceny is also commonly referred to as theft.

What Are The Different Types Of Larceny Cases That Your Firm Handles?

We’ve handled many different types of larceny cases. Some of the common forms include:

  • Shoplifting (several different types)
  • Larceny of property valued both over and under $1,200
  • Larceny from the person
  • Larceny by false pretenses/fraud
  • Larceny by check
  • Larceny of a motor vehicle
  • Unarmed robbery
  • Armed robbery

For many types of larceny, the value of the property determines whether the crime is a misdemeanor or a felony. In Massachusetts, the dividing line is the $1,200 value. For many types of larceny, if the property has a value of less than $1,200, it is a misdemeanor. If the value is more than $1,200 it is a felony. Keep in mind, however, that this is not a hard and fast rule. There are types of larceny where the value of the property does not determine whether it is a felony or a misdemeanor.

Are People Who Are Charged With Theft Or Larceny Always Arrested?

No. In many cases, they will receive a summons to come to court instead of being arrested. If the type of larceny being charged is a misdemeanor, that person will be entitled to have a hearing before a clerk magistrate before any charges are actually issued. At a clerk magistrate’s hearing, the facts leading up to the charges are discussed to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to establish probable cause that the person committed the larceny. Even if there is sufficient evidence, having this type of hearing can be a great benefit. This is because the clerk magistrates have a great amount of discretion when deciding whether charges should be issues. Many times we are able to fashion a remedy at this hearing where the charges do not get issued if the client does certain things, like make restitution and/or stay out of trouble for a certain period of time.

For the felony larcenies (usually, means the value of the property stolen is over $1,200), the charges are often issued without the benefit of a hearing before a clerk magistrate. The person is summoned to court for an arraignment, which is the first appearance in court before a judge for the case to proceed.

Can Someone Be Charged If They Are Accompanying The Person Committing Theft Or Larceny?

Many times people are charged for being with someone who commits the larceny. However, unless you are actually working together with that person in some way to commit the larceny, you should not be convicted. A common example of working together would be where one person acts as a lookout while the other steals the property.

However, simply being present while someone else commits a crime, is never enough for a conviction. This is the defense that we’ve used many times. Of course, whether it is successful is always going to depend on the specific facts of each case. For instance, if someone is acting as a lookout, even though they’re not actively involved in the theft itself, they would be a co-conspirator and charged as well. But if you’re just there and your friend decides to steal something without your involvement,then the charges should not stand. Even if you know that your friend is going to commit the crime, as long as you do not participate, you should not be convicted. Keep in mind that you are under no duty to stop your friend, but you cannot help them either.

What Happens After Someone Is Arrested On A Larceny Charge?

As in most criminal cases, you’re going to be brought to the police station and booked. During the booking process, the police ask basic biographical questions, such as name, address, date of birth, Social Security Number, where do you work, are you on any medications, things like that. Also, it is not uncommon for the police to question / interrogate you about your involvement in the theft. The police may want to talk to you about what they think you did. My advice to anyone in those circumstances is to say nothing, refuse to answer any questions and ask for a lawyer as soon as possible.

After you’re booked, if it is not during court business hours, the police will make arrangements to allow you to attempt to be bailed out. They will make contact with a clerk magistrate who can decide whether you should be released on some amount of bail and what that amount should be. If you are not bailed, the police will transport you to court when it is next open. This usually means the next day, if you are arrested between Monday and Friday.

What Happens At The First Appearance For A Larceny Charge?

The first appearance in court is called an arraignment. There is a formal reading of the charges and a plea of not guilty will be entered on your behalf. At the arraignment, he district attorney has the opportunity to request that you be either held on no bail, some bail or simply ask that you abide by certain conditions of release. Usually, you’ll be appointed a lawyer if you can’t afford one at that first court appearance. Even if you can afford a lawyer, quite often they will have a court appointed a lawyer to assist you at the arraignment if you did not have time to hire your own lawyer. A very common condition for people released on these types of charges is to stay away from the person or business who owned the property that was stolen.

What Does The Prosecution Need To Prove In A Larceny Case?

The prosecutor will have to present evidence that you did, in fact, commit the particular type of larceny. In a general sense, that means that you took away the property of someone else with the intent to not give it back to them. They need to show each and every one of those things in order to find you guilty. So, for instance, if you took someone’s property and you only intended to borrow it and the evidence can show that then it wouldn’t be larceny. It should also be noted that the property does not have to belong to the person you actually took it from. If you take it from someone else, who is simply holding onto it for another person, even taking it from that person would still be larceny. However, since there are many types of larceny, each with their own nuances and elements, the prosecutor may have to prove certain additional facts to prove their case. We can help you to understand, just what is needed in the particular type of larceny charge you face.

For more information on Theft & Larceny Charges, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (617) 227-8383 today.

Michael A. Contant, Esq.

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