The Commonwealth of Massachusetts groups several types of theft crimes into a broad ‘larceny’ category. Under state law, when someone takes possession of property that belongs to another person without their consent, this is larceny. The value of the property that was taken and the circumstances under which the theft occurred determines the crime that is charged. The statute that describes larceny in Massachusetts is General Laws Chapter 266 Section 30.
Larceny has traditionally under common law been separate and distinct from embezzlement and obtaining property with false pretenses. But in Massachusetts, larceny, embezzlement and obtaining property by false pretenses are all covered under the aforementioned chapter. The statute also expands the sorts of property that can be the subject of a larceny charge. ‘Property’ in this state can include money, commercial paper, contracts, public records, pets, real property, electronic data and more.
Massachusetts Laws and Penalties
Generally, if the stolen property is worth less than $250, it is called petty larceny or petit larceny in Massachusetts, which is a misdemeanor. If the stolen property is worth more than $250, it is called grand larceny. This is a felony.
In Massachusetts, many theft and property crimes can be charged as grand larceny or petty larceny, such as:
- Larceny by stealing
- Larceny by stealing from the person
- Larceny by stealing in a building
- Check larceny
- Leased or rented property larceny
- Motor vehicle larceny
- Buying or receiving stolen goods
Grand larceny can be punished by up to five years in state prison and a fine up to $25,000. Or, depending upon the case, you can receive a county jail sentence of 2.5 years. The judge will consider the total value of what was taken and all of the circumstances surrounding your crime. If you committed several larcenies in a short period or all at once, you could be charged with a felony or misdemeanor.
Fines, restitution, community service and probation also can be imposed by the judge, depending upon your history. If you have a criminal record, you are more likely to receive a harsher punishment for grand larceny. Also, if you injured anyone during the commission of larceny, you could get an enhanced penalty. This also is the case if you used a weapon when the offense was committed. You also can be more severely punished if you steal from a person who is 65 years or older.
A common confusion is the difference between larceny and robbery. Robbery is also a serious crime that involves force or breaking into a building to steal. Larceny is taking of the property without force. Both charges can result in serious jail time and can have a negative impact on your future.
Massachusetts Grand Larceny Defenses
Both felony larceny (grand larceny) and theft are serious offenses in Massachusetts. But there are defenses available; remember, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the larceny.
To do so, it must be proven that you obtained property that you did not possess as your own, you intended to take the property from the owner, and you separated the property from the owner. If you are proven to have separated the property from the rightful owner, that is adequate proof that larceny occurred.
There are some special circumstances where you could claim a defense against grand larceny. For example, stealing from a spouse is not classified as theft unless you are separated. You also might claim you were going to return the property, but you will need to prove that you were going to do this. Another defense can be that the items taken were already stolen, but that does not affect a theft charge. The bottom line is, if you took property you did not own and intended to keep it and were aware of it, you can be convicted of larceny.
A common defense is that you thought you had a right to take the property. It is possible to have been entrapped into taking the item as well. The last common defense is duress, where you were forced by another person to steal property or they would do something untoward to you.
Massachusetts Statute of Limitations
Under the Massachusetts statute, the statute of limitations for the crime of larceny is six years.
Massachusetts Grand Larceny Cases
- Massachusetts Couple Charged in Massive Business Fraud Case — A couple from Queensbury MA who ran a business that made machines to install plate glass windows have been charged with grand larceny and defrauding customers in North America of more than $1 million. Robert J. Mirel, 72, and Deborah Burnett, 65, of Lyndon Road, are facing 29 felonies for allegedly conducting a scheme that ripped off more than 40 customers who ordered $60,000 machines but did not receive them. They also were charged with money laundering, scheme to defraud and criminal possession of stolen property.
- State Police Payroll Director Going to Court on Larceny Charge — A Massachusetts State Police payroll director went to court last month for allegedly stealing at least $23,000 from the travel and reimbursement funds for the state police. Denise Ezekiel, 49, was arraigned on a single count of larceny over $250, and is the first payroll employee that is facing criminal charges from a department that had several scandals last year.
- Worcester MA Woman Gets 3 Years in Prison for Robberies — Aimee Matthews, 35, was sentenced to three years in state prison after she pleaded guilty to theft, larceny and burglary charges connected to dozens of home break ins in Central Massachusetts in the past five years.
- CT Police Serve Warrant on CVS Larceny Suspect — A suspect from a 2017 larceny case at a CVS was given a warrant last month at the Hampshire County House of Correction Northampton MA. Nicholas Roy, 27, is suspected of stealing $500 worth of merchandise from the CVS on Mountain Road in Suffield CT. He has been charged with grand larceny. He currently is serving a sentence in MA for another theft crime.