Larceny and theft are terms often used interchangeably to describe unlawfully taking someone else’s property. However, larceny refers specifically to the unlawful taking and carrying away of another person’s property without their consent, intending to deprive them of it permanently. On the other hand, theft encompasses a broader range of offenses, including larceny but also incorporating other acts such as embezzlement, fraud, and receiving stolen goods. Read on to learn more about larceny vs theft and what these terms mean in North Carolina.

What is Shoplifting vs Theft vs Larceny? What Determines the Charges?

You commit shoplifting if you conceal merchandise while still inside a retail establishment. Once you exit the store with the unlawfully obtained goods, you commit a theft crime called larceny.

In North Carolina’s legal framework, “larceny” corresponds to the broader concept of “theft.” The severity of larceny charges and the potential penalties and criminal statutes one might encounter hinge upon the following key factors associated with the act of stealing:

Value of the Stolen Property

The monetary worth of the stolen items plays a crucial role. If apprehended before leaving the store premises, it’s a Class 3 misdemeanor for shoplifting.

If you leave the store and the value of your larceny falls below $1,000, the offense is classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor.

However, if the value exceeds $1,000, the larceny is elevated to a Class H felony, which carries a prison sentence ranging from 10 to 41 months.

Nature of the Stolen Property

Stealing firearms is consistently a Class H felony, warranting a prison term of 10 to 41 months. Such an item’s theft is not the same level as stealing candy from a convenience store.

Method of Theft

How the theft occurs holds significance alongside the item itself. For instance, breaking into a property, regardless of the value of the stolen goods, constitutes a felony offense.

Even entering a convenience store without the owner or manager’s permission to procure a loaf of bread can result in felony charges due to unauthorized entry.

Possession of Stolen Goods

Merely possessing stolen items, even if not personally involved in the theft, can lead to charges. For example, if a friend presents you with a pair of designer earrings, disclosing that it was stolen during a jewelry store burglary, accepting the gift could result in felony charges.

Furthermore, depending on the property’s value, you may face misdemeanor or felony charges for possessing stolen goods. It is possible to be charged even if you were unaware that the item was stolen if evidence suggests you should have known about its illicit origin.


If an individual under 18 is caught stealing, they can still face charges but in the juvenile court system.

However, if the offender is over 18, they may be arrested and charged with misdemeanor shoplifting or misdemeanor or felony larceny, depending on the circumstances.

What is Larceny? What About Grand Larceny vs Petty Larceny?

Larceny is a legal term used to describe the unlawful taking and carrying away of someone else’s property without their consent, intending to deprive them of it permanently.

In North Carolina, larceny is classified into two categories: petty theft and grand larceny, each carrying different consequences.

Petty Larceny

On the other hand, petty larceny, also known as misdemeanor larceny, pertains to theft involving property valued below the grand larceny threshold.

In North Carolina, the offense is considered petty larceny if the stolen property is worth less than $1,000.

Petty larceny is typically treated as a Class 1 misdemeanor, carrying less severe penalties than grand larceny. A conviction for petty larceny can result in consequences such as fines, probation, community service, or a maximum jail term of 120 days.

Misdemeanor-level larceny thefts and convictions have shorter jail sentences, probation, and smaller fines. Examples of misdemeanor larceny in NC include:

  • Shoplifting: concealment of merchandise in a store
  • Stealing less than $1,000 worth of fuel from a gas station
  • Stealing any kind of property worth less than $1000
  • Possessing stolen property worth less than $1000

Grand Theft or Grand Larceny

The threshold for grand larceny is typically defined as stealing property worth more than $1,000. If an individual is found guilty of grand larceny, they can face serious legal repercussions, including felony charges. The punishment for grand larceny in North Carolina can range from a jail sentence of 10 to 41 months of imprisonment, depending on the case’s specific circumstances.

Examples of felony larceny crimes include:

  • Stealing property worth more than $1000
  • Theft of a firearm
  • Committing a burglary of a home
  • Breaking or entering with the intent to commit larceny
  • Breaking and entering any building and attempting to open any vault, safe, or other secure place using nitroglycerine, dynamite, gunpowder, or any other explosive, or acetylene torch
  • Larceny of motor vehicle parts
  • Stealing explosive or incendiary devices or substances
  • Breaking or entering a religious worship building to commit larceny
  • Stealing from the North Carolina State Archives
  • Receiving or possessing felony-level stolen goods
  • Receiving or possessing property in custody of law enforcement as “stolen goods”
  • Theft after conviction for larceny of the above items at least four times.

Other Factors Affecting Misdemeanor vs Felony Charges

While the value of the stolen property is a primary factor in distinguishing between theft crimes of grand larceny and petty larceny, other factors matter, such as the following:

  • Type of property
  • Method of theft
  • Prior criminal record
  • Mitigating and Aggravating Factors

These factors can impact the charges and potential penalties. Repeat offenses or aggravating circumstances may elevate a petty larceny charge to a more serious offense.

Understanding the distinction between felonies of grand larceny and petty larceny is essential in comprehending the legal consequences one may face for different degrees of larcenous acts in North Carolina. It is advisable to consult with a legal professional who can provide specific guidance based on the unique circumstances of each case.

Our Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help

Our experienced criminal defense attorneys at The Cape Fear Law Firm are dedicated to providing the solid legal representation you need when facing larceny or theft charges in North Carolina. We understand the complexities of the law and the potential consequences of these offenses.

With our in-depth knowledge, strategic approach, and commitment to protecting your rights, we will work tirelessly to build a solid defense tailored to your case. Whether you are facing charges of grand larceny or petty larceny, our skilled defense attorneys will guide you through the legal process, advocating for your best interests every step of the way.

Trust The Cape Fear Law Firm to provide you with the expertise and support you need to achieve the most favorable outcome possible. Contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation and take the first step toward a strong defense.