Petit Larceny Vs. Grand Larceny In SC: What’s The Difference?

Man stealing a purse

Petit larceny (sometimes referred to as “petty larceny”) and grand larceny are the legal terms for theft in SC.

Although there are many different types of charges for different types of theft in SC, petit larceny and grand larceny are the “default” theft charges when someone is accused of stealing another person’s property.

Below, we will discuss the different types of larceny charges in SC, including:

  • Petit larceny,
  • Grand larceny,
  • How petit larceny and grand larceny relate to other types of theft charges in SC, and
  • The potential penalties for larceny charges in SC.

Larceny in South Carolina

What is larceny? Larceny means theft.

SC courts have defined larceny as “the taking and carrying away of the goods of another, which must be accomplished against the will or without the consent of the other,” and the taking must be done with the intent to permanently deprive the person of the property.

If you take something from someone else without their permission, and you intend to keep it for yourself and never return it, that is larceny.

On the other hand, if you take something from someone else without their permission, and you intend to return it next week, that is not larceny. It’s borrowing a thing without permission.

There are some specific crimes, such as temporary unlawful use of a vehicle, that make borrowing without permission a crime. But, in many cases, the intent to return an item is a valid defense to larceny charges in SC.

Use of Force

Note that larceny in SC is the taking of property without the use of force – in most cases, it involves a theft from a person when that person is not present.

If force is used in the theft, the charges will most likely involve strong armed robbery (taking property with force but without the use of a deadly weapon) or armed robbery (taking property with the use of a deadly weapon).

2 Charges for Larceny in SC

There are two basic, “catch-all” larceny charges in SC – petit larceny and grand larceny, and then there are a host of other charges that are specific to the type of item stolen. First, let’s look at the difference between petit larceny and grand larceny.

Petit Larceny

Petit larceny, also called “petty larceny” or “petty theft,” is defined by SC Code Section 16-13-30(A) as the “simple larceny of any article of goods, choses in action, bank bills, bills receivable, chattels, or other article of personalty of which by law larceny may be committed, or of any fixture, part, or product of the soil severed from the soil by an unlawful act,” where the value of the property taken is $2000 or less.

Like most property crimes where the penalties are based on the dollar value of the property taken, petit larceny is punishable by up to 30 days in jail (as well as possible fines and restitution).

Grand Larceny

SC Code Section 16-13-30(B) defines grand larceny as the “larceny of goods, chattels, instruments, or other personalty valued in excess of two thousand dollars.”

Grand larceny is then divided into two additional categories that increase the potential punishment based on the dollar value of the property taken – up to five years in prison for more than $2,000 but less than $10,000 and up to ten years in prison for $10,000 or more.

What happens if you are charged with grand larceny, but the state cannot prove that the value of the property was greater than $2,000?

What is a Lesser Included Offense?

Grand larceny $2,000 – $10,000 is a “lesser included offense” of grand larceny greater than $10,000, and petit larceny is a lesser included offense of grand larceny $2,000 – $10,000.

That means that the lesser offense has all the elements of the greater offense except for the value of the property. The value of the property is an element that must be proven beyond any reasonable doubt, and, if it is not, the jury should return a verdict for the lesser offense.

So, if you are looking at a potential ten years on a grand larceny charge, but either the state cannot prove the dollar amount or your attorney proves that the dollar value is less than $2,000, the jury must instead find you guilty of the lesser included offense of petit larceny and you are now looking at a maximum penalty of 30 days.

Larceny Charges in SC vs. Other Property Crimes

Grand larceny and petit larceny are examples of property crimes in SC. Many (but not all) of SC’s property crimes have penalties that are determined by the dollar value of the property involved and follow the same penalty scheme as grand larceny and petit larceny, including:

  • Shoplifting,
  • Receiving or possession of stolen property,
  • Obtaining property by false pretenses,
  • Possession of a stolen vehicle, and
  • Breach of trust with fraudulent intent.

Potential Penalties for Larceny and Other Property Crimes in SC

The table below shows the potential penalties for petit larceny, grand larceny, and all SC property offenses where the potential sentence is determined by the value of the property.

ChargeFelony or MisdemeanorPotential Jail TimeCourt
Value of property is $2,000 or lessMisdemeanorUp to 30 daysMagistrate or Municipal Court
Value of property is $2,000 – $10,000FelonyUp to five yearsGeneral Sessions
Value of property is $10,000 or greaterFelonyUp to ten yearsGeneral Sessions

Property Crime Enhancements in SC

If you are charged with any property crime in SC that is based on the value of the property, including petit larceny or grand larceny, and you have two or more convictions on your record for property crimes based on the value of the property, you can instead be charged under SC’s property crime enhancement statute.

SC Code Section 16-1-57 says that a third offense for any property crime where the punishment is determined by the dollar value of the property is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, regardless of the nature of the offense.

This means that you could have a prior conviction for shoplifting < $2,000, a prior conviction for petit larceny < $2,000, and, if you are now charged with shoplifting a ten-cent piece of candy, you can be sentenced to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Questions About Larceny in SC?

If you have been charged with petit larceny, grand larceny, or any property crime in SC, or if you believe you are under investigation for a property crime, contact the SC criminal defense attorneys at Templeton, Mims & Ward at (843) 891-6100 or by sending us an email through our website to set up a consultation and find out how we can help.

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