Difference between Larceny and Theft

May 21, 2017 by Editorial Team

As common law crimes in the US and in other parts of the globe, larceny and theft are legal terms that are often used interchangeably. However, there are distinct differences between the two. This article draws the line between these criminal offenses.

Definitions

Larceny vs Theft

Larceny is a criminal act that refers to the unlawful taking of personal property, which is owned by another individual. In the early years, the term “larceny” was a criminal offense prominently used in England. However, as crimes were broken down into different types and categories, the use of the term “larceny” was abolished in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales.

At present, larceny still remains a criminal offense in different parts of the US, Australia, and New South Wales. One of the most common types of theft, larceny involves taking away another person’s money or property for personal use.

Theft

Theft, on the other hand, is broader in scope as it encompasses different types of crimes such as larceny, embezzlement, robbery, burglary, shoplifting, fraudulence, and looting. By definition, theft is the illicit act of taking another individual’s money, property, or personal identification with the intent to convert it for personal use.

Larceny vs Theft

So what’s the difference between larceny and theft? In some jurisdictions, larceny and theft are used interchangeably while in others, the term “theft” has permanently replaced larceny. They are very similar in a number of ways but they do have differences.

Firstly, in many jurisdictions, theft is considered broader in scope because it encompasses several types of crimes such as larceny, embezzlement, robbery, burglary, shoplifting, fraudulence, and looting. Basically, theft is the illicit act of taking away tangible, intangible, or intellectual property without the owner’s consent.

Larceny, on the other hand, is simply defined as the act of unlawfully taking away tangible property for personal use. Unlike theft, it always relates specifically to physical items that can be moved or taken away. For instance, not paying services or taking over an abandoned property for personal gains is not considered larceny because these crimes do not involve tangible items that can be moved or transferred without consent.

Comparison Chart

LarcenyTheft
A criminal act that refers to the unlawful taking of personal property, which is owned by another individualThe illicit act of taking away another individual’s money, property, or personal identification with the intent to convert it for personal use
Refers to a specific type of theftBroader in scope
Involves theft of tangible propertiesInvolves theft of tangible, intangible, and intellectual property