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Loudoun County Attorneys > Blog > Juvenile Offenses > Breaking Down a Juvenile Larceny Case

Breaking Down a Juvenile Larceny Case


Some people don’t think juvenile larceny is serious. In fact, they consider it a rite of passage. But to others, including most prosecutors and judges, juvenile larceny is a cry for help. “Nip it in the bud” prosecutors aggressively pursue these cases and aren’t agreeable to dismissals or light punishments. Judges back them up.

Therefore, in these cases, thorough preparation is the key to a successful resolution. At least one defense is usually available in these cases. Once a Leesburg juvenile offense lawyer finds it, and leverages it during plea negotiations, a successful resolution is just around the corner. This successful resolution could be a complete dismissal of charges, a not-guilty verdict at trial, or minor punishment, like pretrial diversion.

Location Matters

According to popular myth, unless juveniles were outside the store at the time of detention, larceny charges won’t hold up in court. This myth, like so many others, is partially true.

If store LPOs (loss prevention officers) detain would-be thieves before they exit the store, or at least before they pass the registers, a Leesburg criminal defense lawyer could easily argue that the defendant intended to pay for the item. This defense is especially effective in simple snatch-and-grab larceny cases. It’s much less effective in elaborate scheme larceny cases, like under-ringing items at a cash register.

That being said, the defense only must create a reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s guilt. It doesn’t need to be strong enough to “beat” the charges.

This defense applies very frequently. Many LPOs want to make a name for themselves and want to corner defendants in the store. Therefore, they often jump the gun.


If prosecutors clear this procedural hurdle, legal and equitable defenses are available. Once again, these defenses are effective if they create a reasonable doubt or force prosecutors to run an extra lap.

Lack of evidence plagues many larceny cases. The property’s owner, which is usually an LPO, must testify in court. Many larceny misdemeanors take at least a year to wind their way through juvenile court. After so much time passes, this key witness is often unavailable.

The key witness might also be unwilling to cooperate, especially if the defendant apologizes. Many people are familiar with the “three sorries,” which are feeling sorry, saying you’re sorry, and acting sorry.

Store managers and prosecutors easily spot fake apologies. Attorneys often help defendants craft sincere apologies, or at least sincere-sounding apologies. As for acting sorry, in addition to paying restitution, the defendant should offer to sweep the parking lot, take out the trash, or perform another menial service.

At this point, most store managers are willing to move on, especially if the defendant didn’t take the item. Also at this point, many prosecutors believe these defendants have learned their lessons and the process has worked.


If the case is weak and/or prosecutors lose interest in it, they usually offer pretrial diversion. If the defendant jumps through a few hoops, such as paying restitution and performing community service, prosecutors normally drop the charges.

Similar resolutions are available as well. They all end the same way. The defendant has no conviction record. A lawyer can purge the arrest record later.

Usually, parents must jump through a few hoops as well. They should expect to take a parenting class and submit to juvenile authorities (i.e. allow social workers to visit their homes).

Rely on a Dedicated Loudoun County Lawyer

There’s a big difference between an arrest and a conviction in criminal law. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Leesburg, contact Simms Showers, LLP, Attorneys at Law. Virtual, home, and jail visits are available.

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