What are the Different Types of Theft Charges?

Theft is a crime also known as larceny in some states. In the most general sense, theft occurs when someone takes someone else’s property without their permission, and their goal in doing so is to deprive the rightful owner of that property.

There are different types of theft according to the law,however. There is petty theft that can occur with smaller property values and there is grand theft, among others.

So what are the differences, and what should you know, particularly if you or someone you care about is charged with any type of theft?

Simple Theft

If you’ve ever heard the term simple theft, this can include petty or grand theft. For example, anything from a misdemeanor shoplifting charge to grand theft can fall into the category of simple theft. There are differences in the type of theft that can be made, however.

As was touched on, one of the biggest ways many state laws differentiate types of theft is by the value of what was taken. In California, for example, petty theft means the value of the property is $950 or less, and the property isn’t taken directly from the owner. For example, for it to be a petty theft charge in California, it can be taken in a mugging or robbery because then the item is taken from the person’s body, clothing or something they’re carrying.

Continuing with the example of California, for something to be petty theft, it also can’t be an automobile, firearm, horse, or certain foods worth more than $250.


If someone uses violence, threats or any form of intimidation to obtain someone else’s property, it can be considered robbery. Robbery is an additional layer to theft charges. For example, if you’re committing theft by mugging someone, then you’ll have robbery charges or perhaps armed robbery charges in addition to larceny charges.

Depending on the area where someone is charged, they may have both theft and weapons charges filed against them in the case of robbery.

Theft of Merchandise

Some states have defined laws regarding shoplifting, while other states might prosecute these charges under umbrella theft laws. Shoplifting at its core means someone is taking items from a store and not paying for them.

Grand Theft

As was mentioned, in most jurisdictions grand theft happens when higher value property is stolen. The value of the property is usually based on its market value when it’s stolen. Grand theft or grand larceny, which are comparable to one another, are felonies in all states.


Burglary is a situation where you unlawfully go into a structure,and your goal in doing so is to commit a crime. That doesn’t just mean theft, however. Trespassing even through an open door can fall into the category of burglary, and in most cases, there isn’t a victim present when burglary takes place. Even without taking something from a structure, you can be charged with burglary.


Fraud can be a form of stealing as well, but it’s different from something like simple theft or theft of merchandise. Fraud refers to a situation where you steal from someone by convincing them to give up their property under false pretenses. Instead of just taking something and walking away with it or threatening someone with violence, fraud utilizes deception.

There are many different types of fraud, based on the type of deception used to take something. For example, embezzlement means taking something that you were trusted to do something else with. Fraud charges are most often related to business and fraud is usually referred to as a white color crime.

Fraud can be different from theft by false pretenses. Theft by false pretenses does mean that you deceived someone to get something, but it’s usually not related to business. An example of theft by false pretenses would be pretending to be someone else in a store, to get an item that other person had purchased.

Identity Theft

Identity theft is becoming much more common, and this is a situation where someone works to steal not necessarily a person’s property, but their personal information. Identity theft can involve stealing bank account and credit card information, or information like Social Security number.

With this kind of theft, the person who steals personal information can then go on to cause serious damage to the victim by making purchases on their credit. Identity theft is now in many cases a federal crime, but there are state laws relating to identity theft as well.


What do you think?


Written by Virily Editor

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