Larceny (Theft) - next step legal guide

As Larceny is a prevalent offence in the community, the courts often state that ‘they need to send a message to the community’ in dealing with people who take other people’s property. The seriousness of the theft often depends on the value of the property taken (for example, contrast taking a used pen to taking a brand new car), or sophistication in unlawfully taking the property.

Courts take a dim view of repeat offenders, particularly if the theft is for ‘greed and not need’ (compare a homeless person taking a loaf of bread to survive, to a young teen stealing make-up from a department store), and also if complete reparation is not made by the the person who took the item.

But, the police need to establish that you took something belonging to somebody else. What do they need to prove?

If you have been charged with Larceny, then the prosecution must establish certain elements of the offence beyond reasonable doubt. These include:

1. That you took property

This property must have some identifiable value, even if it is very minor.

The property is usually an item, but can be intangible such as gas, but has been held by the courts not to be information.

2. That the property belonged to someone else

Interestingly, this can also be illegal items held by somebody else. So you can be guilty of Larceny if you steal another person’s drugs.

3. That the owner of the property did not consent or give you permission to take the property


4. That you intended to ‘permanently deprive the owner’ of that property

Generally, a person is shown to have the intention to permanently deprive another person of their property where it is shown that they treated the property as if it was their own. For example, they used the property, or gave the property to another as if it was theirs to give.


The maximum penalty for the offence of Larceny is five years’ imprisonment (s.117 Crimes Act 1900).

However, if the matter is dealt with in the Local Court, then the maximum penalties available will depend on the value of the property that was stolen:

  • Greater than $5,000 – two years’ imprisonment and/or a $11,000 fine (100 penalty units)

  • $2,000 to $5,000 – two years’ imprisonment and/or a $5,500 fine (50 penalty units)

  • Less than $2,000 – two years’ imprisonment and/or a $2,200 fine (20 penalty units)



There are legal defences to Larceny offences. Does your scenario fit into a legal defence? Some of these defences include:

  • You did not have the intention to permanently deprive the person of the property at the time the property was taken – there must be some element of dishonesty to the taking of the property before the requisite intention can be proven. Even if you formed the intention to permanently deprive the other person of their property at a later time, this will not be enough to prove intention.

  • Claim of right – you need to be able to show that you genuinely and honestly believe that you have a ‘legal entitlement’ to the property that was taken.


Ideally you should speak to your solicitor before you speak to police – you need advice as to your rights and obligations so that you are more comfortable with the processes and understand what is happening. Only then can you make the best decisions.



1. Contact us. Early contact with Tankard’s Law is extremely important, so that you can start to take the right actions immediately. Obtaining advice in relation to making a statement to police or not is essential. You need early advice.  

2. Gather material immediately. You should immediately type out your version of what occurred during the incident and provide this to your lawyer – details get lost in your memory over time. This step is crucial. You should find out who else might be a witness to what took place and get their details - who else was with you when the property was taken and can verify what you say occurred, did you tell somebody what happened immediately after the property was taken and why you took it, did you tell somebody about what you intended to do with the property? These people are witnesses and should provide a statement for your matter.

3. Prepare. Your best chance in achieving the outcome that you want is to prepare your case properly. Let us help you.

 If you have a question about the processes involved in arrest or charge, or attending court and what charges you face or need help understanding what the police are saying to you, contact us by phone on 02 6921 3220 or make a website enquiry.  We will get back to you promptly.

Principal Solicitor and Director, Zac Tankard, has been helping Riverina locals charged with criminal offences since 1998. There is no one better qualified to get behind you when you need it most.