The term “larceny” sometimes confuses North Carolinians, and that is in part because the term itself is subject to redefinition. Essentially, larceny refers to theft, and the courts used to draw distinctions between grand larceny and petty larceny based on the value of the stolen property. However, North Carolina law has since abolished the distinctions between petty and grand larceny, and all larceny offenses are Class H felonies unless otherwise provided by statute.
While most theft-related crimes fall under the category of larceny in North Carolina, according to FindLaw larceny refers to taking someone else’s property without consent for an unlawful purpose without the use of force but with the intent of permanently depriving the owner of his or her property.
The law does not recognize a person retrieving his or her own property from someone else as larceny. In order to commit larceny, the person would need to take possession of someone else’s property. This may seem fairly straightforward, but it can become more unclear in cases in which people co-own property together. In the eyes of the law, a co-owner who deprives other co-owners of their rights to the property may have committed larceny.
Another element in determining whether a person has committed larceny is the intent of the taker. If someone took possession of someone else’s property without permission, but with the intention of eventually returning it, the act of taking possession would not fall under the category of larceny.
In order to commit larceny, the purpose for taking away the property must also be unlawful. For example, even if the owner of a car does not give consent to a bank to repossess the car for nonpayment of an auto loan, the action is nevertheless lawful and so the bank has not committed larceny.
In order to obtain a conviction for larceny, the prosecution must prove all of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt. In other words, they must prove that the property did not belong to the defendant, the purpose in taking it was unlawful, the owner did not give consent and that the defendant did not intend to return it.