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Theft crimes are considered crimes of dishonesty, and upon being convicted, your public reputation, legally speaking, is that you are a dishonest person. The truth however, is that sometimes, innocent people are wrongly accused, while other times, good people have a lapse in judgment. It is the job of a good Fairfax larceny lawyer to protect their client from suffering the unfair consequences which result from a momentary lapse in judgement or a false accusation.

If you have been charged with petit or grand larceny in Fairfax, you will need an aggressive and passionate Virginia criminal lawyer on your side. Because a larceny conviction can have a devastating effect on your reputation, your life, and the lives of your family, these sorts of cases should be handled by a knowledgeable and savvy Fairfax larceny lawyer. On this page, I provide a distinction between petit and grand larceny, while also discussing the possible defenses to these charges.

Fairfax larceny lawyer


Some people believe that larceny is not considered a very serious crime. These people could not be any more wrong. Virginia views depriving another person of their property as a very serious offense. And while this may not be reflected in the sentence imposed for committing the crime, the severity of a larceny conviction is fully revealed by its effect on your current and future employment opportunities.

What Are The Defenses To Larceny Charges?

If you are charged with misdemeanor larceny, there are a number of defenses your Fairfax larceny lawyer can assert on your behalf.


Sometimes, people mistakenly or accidentally take something without realizing it. Someone could be at the store, receive an important phone call, and walk out with an item in their hand without even thinking about it. Your Fairfax larceny lawyer may be able to explain to the prosecutor that this was a simple mistake.


A person may willingly give away their property to another person and then ask for it to be returned. When the party refuses to return the property, the person may file a police report claiming that the property was stolen. However, your Fairfax larceny lawyer can persuasively argue to the jury that the item claimed to be stolen was not stolen at all, but was voluntarily given away by the purported victim but, at a later time, the original owner changed his/her mind. Consequently, there can be no theft if the property was taken with the permission of the original owner.

Incorrect Valuation of Property

Even if a person committed a larceny, sometimes they are charged with felony or grand larceny when, in fact, they should have been charged with petit larceny. Indeed, situations arise in larceny cases where the value of the property is an estimation by police or property owners. Your Fairfax larceny lawyer can obtain an independent appraisal of the property’s value to have the charge lowered from grand larceny to petit larceny.

Alternatively, your Fairfax larceny lawyer may be able to get all parties to agree to a civil compromise. In this situation, the owner of the property may agree to withdraw prosecution after being reimbursed for the property taken. Generally, this usually mitigates the punishment associated with a larceny charge. It also gives the prosecution a reason to drop the charges.

An Example Of How We Can Help

Cloudy is a resident of Fairfax. One day, as he is passing by a golf course in McLean, he notices a car in a local country club parking lot with its trunk open. Cloudy drives up to the car and sees a brand-new set of expensive, brand name golf clubs. Cloudy grabs the golf clubs, throws them into the back seat of his car, and drives off. When the owner of the golf clubs comes back to his car a few minutes later to grab his clubs, they are gone, and he files a police report.

Because Cloudy does not play golf, he has no intention of keeping the clubs. He therefore puts up an ad online to sell the clubs. Derek, an avid golf player, sees the golf clubs and contacts Cloudy, who offers to sell Derek the clubs for $300. Knowing that these particular golf clubs are worth more than $1,000, Derek excitedly accepts Cloudy’s offer and meets with him that evening to make the purchase. When they meet, Derek asks Cloudy why he is selling the clubs for such a cheap price. Cloudy tells Derek that he got them as a gift, but he doesn’t play golf, so he has no use for them.

After purchasing the clubs, Derek realizes he does not like the golf clubs very much, and places an ad online to sell them. The rightful owner of the golf clubs, however, is looking for local ads online to replace his stolen golf clubs, and he comes upon Derek’s ad. The owner knows the clubs belong to him because he notices that the clubs have his initials carved into each of them. The owner of the golf clubs calls the police and the police call Derek, pretending to be an interested buyer. The police come to Derek’s home and arrest him.

Derek hires a Fairfax larceny lawyer. Derek tells his attorney exactly what happened and his Fairfax larceny lawyer speaks with police officers, telling them that Derek did not steal the clubs, but actually purchased them from a guy named Cloudy. The Commonwealth charges Derek with receiving stolen property. The prosecutors refuse to drop the charges, and Derek takes his case to trial.

At trial, Derek’s Fairfax larceny lawyer explains to the jury that even though the price he paid for the clubs was so low that it would indicate the clubs were stolen, Derek specifically asked the person he bought them from why they were so cheap. The buyer’s response was that he got them as a gift, but did not play golf. Given the reasonableness of Cloudy’s explanation, Derek had no reason to not believe him. Moreover, it is highly unusual for a person to steal an item and then place an ad online to sell it. Most of the ads to sell items online are not items which have been stolen, and it would be ridiculous to place a burden on every buyer to research the origins of every item purchased online – just to ensure that it isn’t stolen.

Finally, Derek’s Fairfax larceny lawyer explains that Derek is just a regular guy looking for some golf clubs and has now been charged with a crime for doing nothing more than jumping at a good deal. Thus, there is more than enough reasonable doubt concerning whether Derek actually knew that the clubs were stolen. The jury agrees and returns a verdict of not guilty.


In simple terms, larceny is the unlawful taking of another person’s property with the intention of permanently depriving them of that property. What makes larceny unlawful is that the property is taken without permission. Virginia distinguishes between petit or misdemeanor larceny and grand larceny (felony). Whether someone is charged with felony or misdemeanor larceny is entirely dependent upon the value of the property taken. Thus, if the property taken has no economic value, it is not subject to larceny statutes. Indeed, some goods are “free”, such as the air we breathe, objects that could not sell at any price, or could not be given away (i.e. leaves that have fallen from trees, garbage, dirty diapers, the contents of a septic tank, etc.)

If you or your child have been arrested, charged, or are under investigation for larceny, embezzlement, unauthorized use, false pretenses, or any other theft crime, contact the Law Offices of Randall Sousa today for a free consultation with an aggressive, affordable, and highly skilled Fairfax larceny lawyer.

Petit Larceny

According to Virginia Code § 18.2-96, a person will be charged with petit larceny if they steal money or property valued at less than $200 or worth less than $5 if taken directly from a person (i.e. pickpocketing). Petit larceny is a Class 1 misdemeanor carrying a punishment of up to 12 months in jail and a fine of $2,500.

In common practice, most people convicted of misdemeanor larceny for the first time do not serve any jail time. But if a person is convicted of misdemeanor larceny for a second time, they must serve a mandatory minimum of 30 days in the Fairfax County jail. A third conviction for petit larceny is a Class 6 felony and is again accompanied by a mandatory minimum of 30 days in county jail. Your Virginia larceny lawyer will be able to discuss the potential ramifications of these charges with you.

Grand Larceny

Pursuant to Virginia Code § 18.2-95, grand larceny is a felony, and a person can be convicted if they (1) steal money or items worth in excess of $200; (2) steal things from the body of a person worth more than $5; or (3) steal a firearm or gun. With a pending grand larceny case, your Fairfax larceny lawyer can argue the valuation of the stolen item or whether the item was actually taken “from the body of another person.”

The penalties for grand larceny are much more severe than petit larceny and can result in up to 20 years in prison. Grand larceny with an intent to resell the merchandise is also a felony and is punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison.

Receiving Stolen Property

Virginia Code § 18.2-108 makes it a crime to buy, sell, conceal, or withhold any knowingly stolen property. If someone is found in possession of stolen property, even without evidence of a taking, they can be convicted of Receiving Stolen Property. The best possible defense to this charge is to show that there was no way to reasonably know the property was stolen. A knowledgeable Fairfax larceny lawyer will be able to present that evidence to a jury in a manner which raises reasonable doubt about your culpability.

Unauthorized Use & Joyriding

Fairfax larceny lawyerVehicle thefts are common in Virginia and there are many ways vehicle thefts can occur – illegal towing, hiding a vehicle which is subject to repossession, stealing car keys, borrowing a car without permission, and stealing a parked car without a key. While vehicle theft is usually done with an intention of permanently depriving the owner of their property, the crimes of unauthorized use and joyriding lack the “intent to permanently deprive” element.

Pursuant to Virginia Code §§ 18.2-102 & 18.2-117, unauthorized use and joyriding are treated in much the same way as a larceny, and these crimes, under statutes, are essentially viewed as a larceny with the exception that (1) one need only intend to deprive the owner of the vehicle temporarily; and (2) the absence of the need for the taking to be unauthorized. As a Fairfax larceny lawyer, this distinction makes sense to me. However, I had the benefit of attending law school and learning how to spot these distinctions. As such, I believe it appropriate to explain the distinction in plain English. Unauthorized use and joyriding is distinguished from larceny in that one need only intend to deprive the owner of their property temporarily while with larceny, the intent must be to permanently deprive the victim of their property.

Fairfax Larceny Attorney Explains the Elements of Joyriding / Unauthorized Use

The elements of joyriding / unauthorized use are (1) taking, driving, or using without the owner’s permission; (2) any animal or vehicle; (3) not belonging to that person; (4) with the intent to use only temporarily and with no intent to steal.

The connection between unauthorized use and larceny is that unauthorized use can be charged as a lesser included offense of larceny. To illustrate, there was a case where a defendant had been given permission to use his friend’s truck to go to lunch, but the defendant never returned. The truck was found by police a day later and the defendant was charged with unauthorized use of the truck. The court found that when the owner gives another person permission to take possession of the property temporarily, once that permission expires, it creates a constructive repossession of the property in the rightful owner. Thus, the continued unauthorized use of that property constitutes a trespassory taking.

As you may gather, the distinction between larceny and joyriding is that larceny does not include an element for failing to return property that has been temporarily loaned to them. Thus, the Commonwealth created an offense for failing to return property and imposes an absolute duty on a person to return loaned property to its owner at a specified time and place. As a Fairfax larceny attorney, I have come to understand that this statute does not just apply to joyriding, but can also apply when goods are concealed for the purpose of stealing them (e.g. going into a music store and stuffing a CD in your pocket); altering or changing price tags; or transferring goods from one container to another.

Punishment for Joyriding / Unauthorized Use

Joyriding and unauthorized use can either be charged as a Class 6 felony if the value is $200 or more and a Class 1 misdemeanor if the value is less than $200. However, if the charge is joyriding, I know of no car, other than a non-working Ford Pinto, that is less than $200. Accordingly, most joyriding offenses are charged as felonies.

If you have been charged with unauthorized use or joyriding, contact the Law Offices of Randall Sousa to speak with an aggressive, affordable, and highly skilled Fairfax larceny lawyer. We will do all we can to ensure that you obtain the best outcome possible. The consultation is free. 571-354-6164


According to Va. Code § 18.2-111 “Proof of embezzlement shall be sufficient to sustain the charge of larceny.” The elements of larceny are as follows:

  • Wrongful and fraudulent use or concealment;
  • Of any money, bill, note, check, or any other personal property;
  • Which is received for an employer, principal, or bailor by virtue of his office, trust, employment, or for some other person; or which has been entrusted and delivered to him by another.

fairfax larceny attorney randall sousaIn other words, embezzlement is receiving money from the bank to deliver to your boss, and instead of giving the money to your boss, you run off and buy a pair of Gucci dress shoes. If you have been charged with embezzlement, your Fairfax larceny lawyer will likely seek to argue that there was no fraudulent use or conversion of the property. Conversion means an act which is inconsistent or contrary to the owner’s rights or contrary to the purpose of the trust under which the property was held. The conversion is fraudulent when the accused acts with an intent to deprive the owner of his property and to appropriate it to his own purposes.

All personal property can be embezzled and while these situations generally involve money, they can also involve things such as a rented car. In my time as a Fairfax larceny attorney, I have found that most embezzlement cases arise from business relationships.

Punishment for Embezzlement

Embezzlement of something worth more than $200 is punishable in a manner identical to grand larceny; while embezzlement of something under $200 is punishable as petit larceny.


Pursuant to Virginia Code § 18.2-178, false pretenses is defined as obtaining the property or signature of another person by means of a false statement with the intent to defraud. Importantly, the accused must make a false assertion, knowing it to be false, and that assertion must be the basis for having obtained the property or signature. The false assertion need not be the decisive cause underlying how the accused obtained the property, but rather, may be just one cause amongst many others.

Because false pretenses involve the transfer or “property”, it is said to be within the larceny family of crimes. Accordingly, to be guilty of false pretenses, the accused must intend to deprive the owner of their property at the time of making the false statement. A mere intent to deceive another about some aspect of a transaction does not meet this requirement, although it might easily meet the “intent to defraud” language in the forgery statute. To illustrate, if a general contractor building a house needs cash and takes an advance from the homeowner, and he tells the homeowner that the money is for a subcontractor to paint, but then uses the money to hire a subcontractor to install plumbing, that is not an “intent to defraud.” However, if the contractor uses the money to buy a television for himself, and knew that he intended to buy the TV with the money he obtained from the homeowner, then it is clear that he had an intent to defraud and lied to the homeowner in order to obtain the funds to buy the television.

While the distinction here seems pretty straight forward, in reality, these sorts of cases are much more complicated and it will require the help of an aggressive, knowledgeable, and highly skilled Fairfax larceny lawyer who understands the many different arguments and defenses which can be asserted on your behalf.






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Fairfax, VA 22031
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Phone: 571-354-6164
Secondary phone: 703-651-2606
Email: randallsousa@idefendva.com

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