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Understanding the Different Types of Theft Charges

Defense lawyer for theft or shoplifting

Theft is one of the most common criminal charges that are charged. However, it is often called by many names. Theft, robbery, larceny, embezzlement, and fraud are just a few of the names associated with a theft charge. So, what is the difference in each of these crimes? That is a very important question, especially if you have been charged with the crime.

If you are being charged with theft or fraud, speak to a criminal defense attorney immediately.
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The Four Main Categories of Theft

It should be understood that there are several ways that a person can be charged with theft. However, theft crimes generally fall under four main categories. Each of these categories also has their own sub-categories.


Larceny is the correct legal term for a theft. This area of crime includes several sub-categories. Depending on the jurisdiction, larceny charges may be called:

  • Petty Theft or Petty Larceny– Items under $500 value
  • Shoplifting
  • Grand Theft – Items exceeding $500 in value

For larceny charges to occur, all that must be shown is that property was taken from a person or entity without permission.

Sentencing for a larceny will depend on local and state laws and the type of larceny that took place. Jail time, fines, and community service are often the most common forms of punishment.


A robbery occurs when threats, intimidation, or any type of violence is used to commit a theft. It should be realized that only a threat of violence needs to exist for a larceny crime to be considered robbery. Again, there are several categories of robbery, including:

  • Strong Arm Robbery – This occurs when a theft takes place with force or threats but no weapons were used.
  • Armed Robbery – Theft that occurs using any type of weapon. The weapon only needs to be seen, not actually used, to qualify for this charge.

Unlike larceny, robbery charges are always a felony charge. Sentencing for this type of crime will differ in each jurisdiction, but usually results in some jail time.

Identity Theft

One of the more trending crimes in this category is identity theft. This type of crime affects millions of people each year and is often considered a federal crime. Identity theft occurs when a person uses another person’s identity for monetary gain. This could be in the form of accessing current credit lines, bank accounts, or other assets, or identity theft could consist of establishing credit, accounts, or making purchases in another person’s name in an attempt to defraud the retailer or other entity.


Fraud is an act of trying to deceive another person or entity to gain monetary or other goods as a result of that deception. Often considered a “white collar crime” because it usually does not involve any type of physical confrontation to occur, this type of crime can range from very simple, such as presenting a fraudulent money order to cash at the bank, to billion dollar crimes involving major companies and the stock market. Because fraud is such a broad term, charges for this crime can be state, local, or international and penalties will also vary greatly.

Theft by Any Other Name is Still Theft

It should be understood that larceny may fall under many different names. Different jurisdictions throughout the country have their own names and penalty guidelines based on their local laws. However, when it comes down to it, the intentional taking of another person’s property or assets in any form is considered a theft.

Other types of crimes that will fall under the larceny category will include:

  • Burglary or Home Invasion – This act occurs when any unoccupied building is broken into and items are stolen. If anyone is in the building, the charge is often converted to robbery.
  • Check Kiting – Writing a check that is not good is a type of theft, even if the person intends to cover the check at a later time.
  • Insurance Fraud – Making fraudulent claims against an insurance policy for the purpose of receiving money for the “loss”.
  • Looting – Looting generally occurs during riot situations when people break into stores and homes to cause chaos. .
  • Copyright Piracy – Stealing the works of another person for any type of financial gain, including “not having to pay for the item,”. This is a federal crime and has very strict penalties.
  • Credit Card Fraud – Using fake credit cards to make purchases. Because most purchases are made over state lines, credit card fraud is generally a federal crime.
  • Bank Heists – Bank robberies are a specific form of larceny that is handled by the federal government. This applies to all banks, even single location, local banks.
  • Embezzlement – When you are entrusted with the property or assets of another and you use them for your own gain. Often associated with businesses when employees use company money for personal use.
  • Tax Evasion – Hiding money and not paying taxes on it is a form of tax evasion.

Facing Theft Charges

If you or your loved one is facing any type of theft charge, you will need the assistance of a good criminal defense attorney. Penalties for this type of crime can range greatly, and it will be in the best interest of those who are accused of this crime to speak with a lawyer about what to expect in that jurisdiction for the charges being placed against them.

Your attorney will help you build a defense and will be able to provide you with the information that you need about the potential outcome of the case.

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