Under NRS 205.240, Nevada law defines the crime of petit larceny as intentionally taking another person’s property (without permission) when the value of the items is less than $1,200.00. If the stolen property is valued at $1,200.00 or greater, then the more serious crime of grand larceny can be charged.
Also called petty larceny or petty theft, petit larceny comprises:
- stealing items from hotel rooms, and/or
- stealing pets
A criminal record seal for a petit larceny conviction may be available 1 year after the case closes.
Petit theft is a misdemeanor in Nevada. The maximum sentence includes:
- victim restitution for the items allegedly stolen, and
- $1,000 in fines and/or 6 months in jail
But many prosecutors will agree to dismiss the charge if the defendant pays the fine and restitution and completes Petit Larceny School.
Common defenses to Nevada petit larceny charges include showing that:
- No property was actually taken,
- There was no intent to steal, and/or
- The property belonged to the defendant
In this article, our Las Vegas petty larceny lawyers discuss:
- 1. What is petit larceny in NV?
- 2. Can I go to jail?
- 3. Can the case get dismissed?
- 4. How do I fight the charges?
- 5. When can I seal the case?
- 6. Can I get deported?
- 7. Other theft offenses
1. What is petit larceny in Las Vegas, Nevada?
The legal definition of petty larceny is when someone intentionally steals another person’s property without their consent when the property is worth less than $1,200. Petty theft cases typically stem from the following situations:
- shoplifting, such as from Walmart;
- stealing items from a motel or hotel room where the suspect stayed, or
- taking someone else’s domesticated animals, such as a dog, cat or bird1
Courts might rely on expert testimony and/or market research to determine a stolen item’s worth. Ultimately, courts attribute the highest value to the stolen property by any reasonable standard.2
1.1. Petit larceny versus other larceny crimes
|Nevada theft offense||Difference from petty larceny|
|Grand larceny||Unlike petty larceny, grand larceny is stealing goods valued at $1,200 or more. Grand larceny is always a felony.3|
|Larceny from a person (pick-pocketing)||Larceny from a person is stealing goods from another’s person body without using force or threats. It is usually done without the knowledge of the theft victim. Pick-pocketing is always a felony.4
By contrast, petty larceny is stealing goods that are not on someone’s person.
|Burglary||Burglary is entering any building or structure with the intent to commit larceny (or certain other crimes) inside. Burglary is always a felony.5
By contrast, petty larceny may occur outside. And people may be convicted of petty larceny even if they had no intention to steal before they went inside.
|Grand larceny of a firearm||Stealing a gun is always a felony in Nevada. It does not matter if the gun is valued at less than $1,200.6|
2. What are the penalties for petit larceny in Las Vegas, Nevada?
As a misdemeanor, petty larceny carries the following punishment:
- up to $1,000 in fines, and/or
- up to 6 months in jail7
In addition, the court may order that the defendant pay restitution to the victim. The amount of restitution depends on the stolen items’ value.8
3. Can a petit larceny charge be dismissed?
Possibly, especially if it is the defendant’s first offense. The typical scenario is for the defendant to enter a “submittal” to petty larceny. This means that the prosecutor will dismiss the charge as long as the defendant does the following:
- pay a fine,
- pay restitution, and
- complete “Petit Larceny School”, an educational course about shoplifting consequences and community resources
But if the defendant fails to complete these terms, the judge will convict the defendant of petty larceny and possibly impose jail.
In Las Vegas Municipal Court, the Petit Larceny Program (PLP) consists of either four two-hour group counseling sessions or one eight-hour class. This course costs $225.
4. What are the defenses to petit larceny?
There are various arguments a criminal defense attorney may use in fighting a Nevada petty larceny charge. Which ones will prove most effective depend on the facts of the particular case. Three of the most common defense strategies are:
- There was no taking
- There was no intent to steal
- The property belonged to the defendant
4.1. There was no taking
Merely touching someone else’s property is not the same as taking it. Henderson criminal defense attorney Michael Becker gives an example of this distinction:
Example: Friends Jane and Jill go to Walgreens, where Jill dares Jane to steal a lipstick. Jane runs her hand over one of the lipsticks but quickly loses her nerve and takes her hand away. Meanwhile, a cashier overhears the exchange and alerts Las Vegas Metro that Jane has stolen a lipstick.
If the police cite Jane for petty larceny, the charge should be dismissed because Jane did not steal anything. Touching the lipstick like any patron might should not amount to a taking, even if she was momentarily considering stealing it.
Had Jane in the above example put the lipstick in her pocket and made it past the register before losing her nerve, then the D.A. might be able to convict her of petty larceny. In this scenario, Jane technically took the lipstick with the intent to steal it. The fact she had second thoughts does not negate her prior action of hiding the lipstick in her pocket with intent to keep it.
4.2. There was no intent to steal
Petty larceny is an intent crime. Therefore, defendants may not be convicted of it unless they took an item with intent to steal it. Boulder City criminal defense attorney Michael Becker gives an example:
Example: Jared goes into CVS to buy a soda. While in the store, he gets a phone call. Preoccupied with the phone call, he walks out of the store forgetting to pay. Since Jared did not mean to steal, he committed no crime.
The challenge in cases like the above example is convincing the judge that the defendant merely forgot to pay. But as long as the prosecution cannot prove that the defendant intended to steal, the charge should be dropped.
4.3. The property belonged to the defendant
Sometimes defendants get falsely accused of stealing property that is theirs to begin with. Mesquite criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse provides an illustration of how this can happen:
Example: Andy and Bill broke up but share custody of a cat. One day Bill drives to Andy’s and takes the cat from the front porch in order to drive the cat to the vet.
Still angry over the breakup, Andy calls the police and reports that Bill stole the cat. If Bill gets arrested for petty larceny, the charge should be dismissed once he can show that he co-owned the cat.
In short, defendants cannot be convicted of petty larceny if they owned the allegedly stolen property.
No matter the defense strategy, prosecutors have the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecutors typically rely on surveillance footage and eyewitnesses as evidence. But as long as the defense attorney can show that the state’s case is too dubious to sustain a conviction, the charge may be dropped.
5. Can I get my petit larceny case sealed in Las Vegas, Nevada?
Petty larceny convictions may be sealed from the defendant’s criminal record one (1) year after the case closes.9 But if the case gets dismissed with no conviction, then the defendant may pursue a record seal right away.10
It is always recommended that people with petty larceny on their criminal record pursue a record seal. It looks very bad to prospective employers and carries a social stigma.
6. Will I be deported for petit larceny in Las Vegas, Nevada?
Probably not as long as the immigrant has only one (1) petty larceny conviction. Petty larceny is technically a crime involving moral turpitude, which is usually deportable. But petty larceny falls under immigration law’s “petty offense” exception because its maximum possible jail time is only six (6) months.11
However, immigration law is constantly changing and is very confusing. Any alien who has been charged with petty larceny is strongly advised to consult with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to try to get the charge dismissed. Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.
7. Other Nevada theft crimes
|Nevada theft offense||Definition|
|Robbery||Robbery is taking another’s personal property by force or threats. An example is a hold-up.12|
|Possession of stolen property||It is unlawful to possess property that the possessor knows is stolen.13|
|Possession of lost property||People may not knowingly keep lost property unless they take reasonable measures to find the owner.14|
|Embezzlement||Embezzlement is stealing property that the person initially possessed legally. An example is not returning a rented car on time.15|
|Bait-purse theft||Lost purses or wallets in a public place may be plants by local police looking for thieves.16|
Call us if you have been arrested for theft . . .
For years our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers have succeeded in negotiating petit larceny (petty theft) charges down to full dismissals or charge reductions. You are welcome to call us for a free consultation to discuss how we can help put this case in the past and keep your criminal record clean.
Arrested in California? Read our article about California petty theft laws.
- NRS 205.240 Petit.
- NRS 205.0834.
- NRS 205.220.
- NRS 205.270.
- NRS 205.060; Puglisi v. State, 102 Nev. 491, 728 P.2d 435 (1986) (“Petit larceny is not a lesser included offense in a burglary charge.”)
- NRS 205.226.
- Note that petty larceny may be a municipal crime in addition to a state crime. Nevada Attorney General Opinion 64 (June 16, 1959) (“A city may legally enact an ordinance making the issuance of checks without sufficient funds and petit larceny municipal offenses if they are committed within the city, even though such acts are also offenses under state law.”); see, e.g., Reno Municipal Code § 8.10.040.
- NRS 205.240; see, e.g., Carpenter v. State, 2013 Nev. Unpub. LEXIS 1322, 2013 WL 5323385 (“Restitution is a sentencing determination that this court will generally not disturb unless it rests upon impalpable or highly suspect evidence. Martinez v. State, 115 Nev. 9, 12-13, 974 P.2d 133, 135 (1999). A district court must rely on reliable and accurate information in calculating a restitution award. Id. at 13, 974 P.2d 135. “An owner of property may testify to its value, at least so long as the owner has personal knowledge, or the ability to provide expert proof, of value.” Stephans v. State, 262 P.3d 727, 731 (Nev. 2011) (internal citation omitted).”).
- NRS 179.245.
- NRS 179.255.
- INA § 212(a)(2)(A) (II), 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(2)(A) (II).
- NRS 200.380.
- NRS 200.275.
- NRS 205.0832(d).
- NRS 205.300.
- NRS 205.0832(d).