The Nevada crime of petit larceny (also called "petty larceny" or "petty theft") is the illegal taking or shoplifting of another's property when the value is less than $650. Although it is only a misdemeanor in Las Vegas, a petit larceny conviction looks bad on criminal records and may cause employers not to hire applicants on that basis alone.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers explain Nevada petty larceny law as well as how we may be able to get charges reduced to a lesser offense or dismissed outright.
Legal definition of "petit larceny" in Nevada
The legal definition of petit larceny applies when someone "intentionally steals, takes and carries away, leads away or drives away" any property owned by another person without their consent when the property is valued at less than $650. The vast number of petty larceny cases stem from the following situations:
- stealing items from a hotel room where the suspect lodged, and
- taking someone else's pets.
When determining the price of allegedly stolen property in a larceny case, the court shall attribute to it the highest value by any reasonable standard. If the value of the property is $650 or more, then the suspect may face the more serious charges of grand larceny in Nevada.
Relation to Burglary
Nevada burglary law makes it a crime to enter any building with the intent to commit larceny inside whether or not the suspect succeeds in taking any property. But if the suspect does steal, he/she may be charged with larceny in addition to burglary and face sentences for both crimes upon conviction. (NRS 205.060)
There are various arguments a criminal defense attorney may use in fighting a Nevada petit larceny charge. Which ones will prove most effective depend on the facts of your particular case. The following are a sampling of some of these defenses.
- There was no taking. The definition of petit larceny in Clark County requires an actual wrongful "taking" of property. If you were given the property (not knowing that it was stolen) or if you legally purchased it, then your petit larceny charges should be dismissed.
- Lack of intent. Since petit larceny is an intent crime in Las Vegas, you may not be convicted of it if you did not intend to take the property in the first place. There are many cases where shoppers accidentally leave a store without having paid for their merchandise because they were preoccupied and simply forgot to ... and in these situations they should not be convicted of petit larceny because they lacked intent.
- The property belonged to you. You cannot be convicted of stealing something that is yours. So your Nevada petit larceny charges must be dismissed if the prosecutor cannot prove that you did not own the property in question.
The Nevada crime of petit larceny is charged as a misdemeanor in Nevada and carries the following punishment:
- restitution of the items allegedly stolen, and
- up to $1,000 in fines and/or up to 6 months in jail
As a misdemeanor, Nevada petit larceny convictions remain on defendants' criminal records for at least one year before they may be sealed.
Clark County judges order the following penalties upon a conviction of burglary, which is a category B felony in Nevada:
- 1 to 10 years in Nevada State Prison (or 2 to 15 years if the suspect possessed a deadly weapon), and
- maybe a $10,000 fine
And if the suspect committed larceny in the course of the burglary and was convicted for both crimes in Nevada, the judge will hand down sentences for larceny as well as burglary.
If it is a first petty larceny offense, Clark County prosecutors may be amenable to dismissing the case completely or reducing it to something more minor like Nevada jaywalking. In exchange, the prosecution may require the defendant to pay a fine and restitution, and to complete "Petit Larceny School," which is a court-ordered education course about shoplifting.
For example, Las Vegas Municipal Court Petit Larceny Program (PLP) consists of up to four two-hour group counseling sessions (or one eight-hour one) where the participants learn about theft crimes, community resources, and the consequences of stealing. The typical cost is $225.
Call us if you have been arrested for theft . . .
For years our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers have succeeded in negotiating petit larceny charges down to full dismissals or charge reductions. You are welcome to call us at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free consultation to discuss how we can help put this case in the past and keep your criminal record clean.