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Loudoun County Attorneys > Blog > Larceny Fraud > What’s the Difference Between Theft, Larceny, and Fraud?

What’s the Difference Between Theft, Larceny, and Fraud?


For thirty years, between 1991 and 2021, the property crime rate fell almost every year. The reduction was usually significant. Suddenly, in 2022, the property crime rate increased sharply. Law enforcement oversight dropped significantly in this area during pandemic lockdowns. In fact, many local law enforcement agencies stopped responding to larceny and theft calls, unless the defendant committed a felony or had outstanding warrants. Now, they’re making up for lost time.

To deal with the arrest uptick, a Leesburg larceny, theft & fraud lawyer must diligently prepare a defense. This process includes a quick and thorough case evaluation that identifies all possible procedural, substantive, and affirmative defenses. Armed with this knowledge, an attorney is usually able to successfully resolve property crime matters out of court. This resolution often includes pretrial diversion. Defendants who complete these brief programs aren’t legally convicted of a crime.


Basically, theft is a Seventh Commandment violation. This broad term encompasses various acts of unlawfully taking someone else’s property without permission, and with the intent to deprive the owner of the full value of that property.

This unlawful taking often begins lawfully. Overstaying a lease deprives the owner of the full value of real property and returning a rented car past the due date deprives the owner of the full value of that vehicle.

Leesburg criminal defense lawyers rarely handle such cases. Since most police officers believe they are civil matters, they don’t want to get involved.

That’s at least true regarding misdemeanor theft. Police officers are more aggressive if the facts indicate the theft was a felony. In fact, in these cases, they even launch official investigations. More on that below.


This offense is a specific kind of theft that typically involves the unlawful taking and carrying away of someone else’s property without their consent.

Larceny often emphasizes the physical act of taking and removing the property, and it may require additional elements such as an intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property. Larceny is generally considered a more traditional or older term in legal contexts.

Shoplifting is a form of larceny. These cases are very difficult to prove in court. Even if the defendant walked past a cash register without paying for the merchandise, prosecutors are hard-pressed to establish intent. Furthermore, the property owners often aren’t very cooperative in these cases, especially if they didn’t lose any property and the shoplifter had a clean record.


Basically, fraud is theft by deception. The state must prove the defendant intentionally misrepresented a material fact to unlawfully gain property.

Many fraud cases involve vast criminal conspiracies. These lengthy investigations often feature procedural errors, such as Fifth Amendment violations. The broad right to remain silent allows a defendant to refuse to interact with police officers, aside from obeying basic “step out of the car” commands.

Fourth Amendment search and seizure violations are common as well, especially if a warrant application over-relied on the uncorroborated testimony of a confidential informant.

Connect With a Thorough 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. We routinely handle matters throughout Northern Virginia.



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