A Guide to The Most Common Larceny Defences

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Larceny is generally defined as the unlawful taking away of someone else’s possessions.

Also known as theft or stealing, larceny comes with a number of different penalties, depending on the value of the goods that were stolen and whether there were any other circumstances, such as violence or property damage, surrounding the crime.

The maximum penalty for a conviction of larceny in NSW is generally five years imprisonment.

If the value of the property stolen is under $5,000, the matter will generally be heard in the local court, and the maximum prison term is two years.

If it is higher than $5,000 the defence or prosecution can elect to have the matter dealt with in the district court.

There are a number of different larceny defences that can help defendants avoid incurring the maximum penalties, or potentially avoid conviction altogether.

What does the prosecution need to prove for a successful larceny conviction?

There are a number of different factors that the prosecution needs to prove for a defendant to be successfully convicted of larceny.

These are:

  • That the accused unlawfully took and carried away;
  • Property belonging to someone else
  • Without the owner’s consent
  • With the intention of permanently depriving the owner of the property

To convict someone of larceny, all four of these factors must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

If there is doubt surrounding any of the circumstances, then there is a good chance that the defendant will be acquitted, or the charges will be dropped.

What are the defences for larceny?

To successfully defend a larceny charge, there must be reasonable doubt that at least one of the elements that make up larceny was present.

If there is reasonable doubt surrounding one or more of the factors that define larceny, the prosecution will not be able to prove their case.

Some effective larceny defences include:

  • Where the person taking the property had a legal right to it, or had
  • reasonable grounds to believe they did.
  • Where the defendant intended to return the property, thereby not intending to deprive the victim permanently.
  • Where there was consent from the owner to the defendant taking the goods.
  • Where the defendant was coerced into taking the property.

There are some situations that are not considered to be legitimate defences against a larceny charge, including where the property taken was obtained unlawfully or as the result of criminal activity, and if the property was taken from a spouse who the defendant was no longer living with at the time.

If a defendant believed they had a right to the property, this belief must be on legal rather than on moral grounds.

What are the main penalties for larceny?

As well as imprisonment, defendants who are convicted of larceny face a range of other penalties, including fines, good behaviour bonds, community service and suspended sentences.

The penalty a defendant will receive largely depends on the strength of their defence, and the value of the goods that were stolen.

Are you facing a larceny charge?

Larceny can be a complicated charge, and is often difficult to prove in court.

To find out more about defending yourself against a charge of larceny, speak to an experienced criminal defence lawyer, who has a track record in successfully defending similar cases.

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Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with 25 years of experience as a Criminal Defence Lawyer. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

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