Illegal taking and carrying away of personal property belonging to another with the purpose of depriving the owner of its possession.

The wrongful and fraudulent taking and carrying away by one person of the mere personal goods of another from any place, with a felonious intent to convert them to the taker's use and make them his property without the consent of the owner.

What Constitutes Larceny

To constitute larceny several ingredients are necessary. The intent of the party must be felonious; he must intend to appropriate the property of another to his own use. If the accused have taken the goods under a claim of right, however unfounded, he has not committed a larceny.

There must be a taking from the possession, actual or implied, of the owner; hence if a man should find goods and appropriate them to his own use, he is not a thief on this account.

There must be a taking against the will of the owner and this may be in some cases where he appears to consent; e.g., if a man suspects another of an intent to steal his property, and in order to try him, leaves it in his way and he takes it, he is guilty of larceny. The taking must be in the county where the criminal is to be tried. But when the taking has been in the county or state and the thief is caught with the stolen property in another county than that where the theft was committed, he may be tried in the county where arrested with the goods, as by construction of law, there is a fresh taking in every county in which the thief carries the stolen property.

There must be an actual carrying away, but the slightest removal, if the goods are completely in the power of the thief, is sufficient; to snatch a diamond from a lady's ear, which is instantly dropped among the curls of her hair, is a sufficient asportation or carrying away.

Larceny Examples

The property taken must be personal property; a man cannot commit larceny of real estate. For example, an apple, while hanging on the tree where it grew, is real estate, having never been separated from the freehold; it is not larceny, therefore, at common law, to pluck an apple from the tree and appropriate it to one's own use, but a mere trespass. If that same apple, however, had been separated from the tree by the owner or if shaken by the wind, and while lying on the ground it should be taken with a felonious intent, the taker would commit a larceny, because then it was personal property. Animals ferae naturae, while in the enjoyment of their natural liberty, are not the subjects of larceny. At common law, chooses in action are not subjects of larceny.

Larceny is divided in some states into grand and petit larceny depending upon the value of the property stolen.