Stealing (Larceny)

Larceny is the legal word for stealing or theft.  Our criminal lawyers have great success in defending Larceny charges and having our clients found not guilty.

To discuss your Larceny charge, call Australian Criminal Law Group at our Sydney, Parramatta, and Blacktown offices  on (02) 8167 or leave a website enquiry here.


Larceny, the word that criminal lawyers use to describe the offence of stealing, is a serious crime. Courts can impose sentences of imprisonment where large amounts of money or expensive items are stolen, or where a person is a repeat offender. For first offenders, the courts may record convictions and other penalties involving criminal records. A good criminal lawyer will often be the difference between prison and freedom, or no criminal record with a section 10 and a conviction.

What is Larceny?

Larceny is the legal word for stealing or theft. Larceny can be committed in many ways from stealing chocolate at a supermarket to stealing cash out of a register. The value of the property stolen can be sentimental or worth millions of dollars. 

Our criminal lawyers have great success in defending a Larceny charge and having our clients found not guilty. We use a range of defences, including identification (it wasn’t you who stole the property), arguing the property wasn’t stolen, that you intended to return the property, or that the property belonged to you. 

If you intend to plead guilty to larceny (e.g., stealing or theft charge), our criminal lawyers have a proven track record of not only keeping our clients out of jail but having no conviction recorded for larceny offences. 

What is the law for larceny in NSW?

Larceny is theft or stealing which is the taking of somebody else’s property. Larceny is non-violent theft, as opposed to a robbery, and doesn’t involve the taking of property directly from a person, as would occur with the offence of stealing from a person. An example of larceny is shoplifting, taking something from someone’s bag when they are not looking, or stealing from a premise that you have a legal right to be in.

The offence of larceny is defined by the High Court of Australia in the case of Ilich v R (1987) HCA 1:

A person steals who, without the consent of the owner, fraudulently and without a claim of right made in good faith, takes and carries away anything capable of being stolen with intent, at the time of such taking, permanently to deprive the owner thereof.

The punishment for larceny is dealt with in the Crimes Act 1900 in section 117. The maximum penalty is 5 years imprisonment in the District Court and 2 years imprisonment in the Local Court. While the Crimes Act provides the penalties for larceny, it is a common-law offence (based on judicial decisions) with cases such as Ilich setting out what the police must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to successfully prosecute the chare.

Larceny vs. Theft?

Larceny is a legal term, developed over hundreds of years, and which has a specific legal meaning in that a person took and carried away property belonging to another person, without that person’s consent, and with an intention to permanently deprive the owner of the property.

Theft, on the other hand, is a word used to describe a much broader range of dishonesty offences including larceny, identity theft, robbery, armed robbery, fraud, embezzlement, receiving stolen property and more.

The use of the words theft and larceny are sometimes misused due to the influence of American popular culture. Petty Theft, common theft, and grand larceny are American offences. The American offences of petty theft, common theft, and grand larceny are differentiated by the value of the property stolen. In NSW, the offence of one offence of larceny covers all the conduct contained in the three American offences and whilst the maximum penalty will change, depending on the value of the property stolen, the offence charged is always larceny itself.

Punishment for Theft Australia: Larceny penalties

The maximum punishment for larceny in NSW is five years imprisonment.

However, if the matter is heard in the Local Court, the penalties are dependent on the value of the property stolen.   

The following maximum penalties apply:

  • Value exceeding $5,000: Maximum penalty is limited to two years imprisonment and/or a fine of $11,000;
  • Value does not exceed $5,000: Maximum penalty is 12 months imprisonment and/or a fine of $5,500;
  • Value does not exceed $2,000: Maximum penalty is two years imprisonment and/or a fine of $2,200.

Alternate penalties for larceny

There are several alternate penalties available to the court for larceny offences.  They are all considered to be more favourable punishments for theft charges.  These include

  • Section 10 – No conviction recorded
  • Fine
  • Community service order
  • Intensive correction order

Our criminal lawyers are experts at getting the best possible outcomes for theft charges.  This includes receiving section 10’s no convictions recorded for charges of larceny.   Section 10 means avoiding a criminal record even if you plead guilty to having committed a theft. 

How do I beat a larceny charge? 

You will be found not guilty of the offence of Stealing (Larceny) if the police cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. You took and carried away property; and
  2. That property belonged to another person; and
  3. You intended to permanently deprive the owner of that property; and
  4. The taking was done without the consent of the owner.

Defences for larceny

There must be an intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property which intent must exist at the time of the taking so that if the obtaining of the property is innocent a later intent to steal is insufficient. If the accused takes the property without having decided whether to keep it or not, he does not commit Larceny.

The claim of right is a defence against Larceny. A person will have a claim of right where they possess a genuine belief that they have a bona fide claim of right to certain money. If you believed you were entitled to take the property, it does not matter that you did not believe you were entitled to take it in the manner you did.

Where you have committed larceny because you were threatened to do so or forced to do so due to the threat of serious harm to you or a loved one, it was reasonable to do so given the circumstances, the defence of “duress” can be used.

Pleading guilty to larceny

If you agree that you have committed the offence (and the police are able to prove so), it is best to plead guilty as you will normally receive a discount on your sentence.  By pleading guilty, you are demonstrating to the court that you are remorseful which the court looks favourably on.

Alternatively, it may be the case that one of our experienced solicitors can negotiate with prosecutors for you to plead guilty to less serious facts or even a less serious charge.

If you plan on pleading guilty, we recommend preparing written character references.  Ask family members, friends, colleagues, managers, or anyone else suitable to write good reference letters to the court that show you in a good light. We believe references are an extremely important part of a plea of guilty in court. Visit our Court Processes and References page for more information about how to write a good reference. 

What factors will the court consider in sentencing for larceny?

The court will consider several factors when deciding the appropriate penalty for larceny.  These are the “objective factors” which determine the objective seriousness of the larceny offence in comparison to other cases of larceny as well as the “Subjective factors” or the defendants’ subjective circumstances

Objective Factors

  • Value of the property stolen – The higher the value the more serious the crime.
  • What was stollen – The courts differentiate items stolen out of need (e.g., food) vs. for materialistic reasons (e.g., designer clothes).
  • Planning and sophistication – The more time the defendant took to plan the offence the more opportunity they had to consider their actions. As such, the court looks more harshly on offences that were well planned or required a high level of sophistication vs. those enacted on a whim.
  • Personal use vs. profit – If the defendant stole the item with the intention to sell it for profit, the courts consider this a more serious crime.
  • Alone or part of a group – Crimes involving a group of people require a higher level of planning and sophistication. They are therefore considered more serious by the courts.

Subjective factors

  • Criminal record of the defendant and if this is the first offence
  • Age and maturity of the defendant.
  • Financial circumstances of the defendant
  • Their family circumstances and their upbringing
  • The defendant’s education and employment
  • Their mental health; and
  • Steps were taken by the defendant to rehabilitate

First offence, larceny offence            

The courts will often impose more lenient sentences for first-time offenders. If you have no prior criminal record, then depending on the value of what you stole and how the offence was committed, a good criminal defence lawyer is likely to be able to argue for you to receive a lenient sentence.

A criminal record involving larceny can seriously impact your life. Being convicted of larceny shows you aren’t trustworthy and so can impact your prospects for work and career development.  A good criminal defence lawyer can help you avoid a criminal conviction for your first offence of larceny with section 10.

What to do if arrested for larceny, theft or stealing

For serious cases of larceny, you could be facing penalties as harsh as imprisonment.  As such, we recommend that you contact an experienced defence lawyer a.s.a.p. to help you get the best outcomes for your case.

Your criminal defence lawyer will be able to assess the circumstances of the offence and determine the right strategy for your case. They will help build the best defence for you and help you navigate the tricky legal system.

Australian Criminal Law Group have a team of defence lawyers experienced in representing clients for larceny offences. We know how to get you the best results, beat charges and/or avoid a criminal conviction.  We have a track record for getting section 10s with no conviction for our clients who have been charged for common theft (larceny). 

Australian criminal law group for defending theft charges

Our criminal lawyers are experts at obtaining the best outcome possible for Larceny offences. For these offences, a good lawyer can be the difference between a conviction and no criminal record and freedom or jail. 

To discuss your Larceny charge, call Australian Criminal Law Group at our SydneyParramatta, and Blacktown offices or make a website inquiry today.

Case Study

Mr Correy represented a young woman who plead guilty to stealing more than $5,000.00 from a deposit box at a bank. Mr Correy submitted that stealing was impulsive and that the young woman had been neglected by her mother in that she had been taking her daughter’s wage to gamble for much of her working life, which affected her ability in that split moment to distinguish right from wrong. The Magistrate agreed with Mr Correy’s submissions and dealt with the matter pursuant to section 10, meaning no conviction was recorded.

Case Study

Mr Correy represented a man who had a gambling addiction and had been charged with stealing $15,000.00 from the account of a customer at a bank where he worked. He was not charged until four years after the stealing. Mr Correy submitted in the four years, he had addressed his gambling addiction and there was no good reason for the delay in bringing the charges, which he had lost his job over. Mr Correy submitted he had rebuilt his life and may lose his new career if a conviction was recorded. Given the delay, the Magistrate agreed and dealt with the matter pursuant to section 10, meaning no conviction was recorded.

Case Study

Australian Criminal Law Group represented a man charged with Larceny. The police found him with another person’s phone immediately after the person’s car had been broken into. The person whose phone was stolen did not wish to give evidence at court and did not. Our criminal lawyer objected to any evidence of the phone being in the car as being hearsay. As such, the police could not prove the phone was stolen and the magistrate found our client not guilty. 

Case Study

Mr Correy represented a man charged with a supply of 32g of cocaine, larceny (stealing of $5,000, and possessing housebreaking implements after he stole a safe from a drug dealer and broke into it. Mr Correy successfully argued his client was a drug user who had opportunistically ripped off another criminal, putting himself in danger to feed his habit. The judge agreed and did not send Mr Correy’s client to jail. 

Case Study

Australian Criminal Law Group represented a woman who was found with clothes in her car that still had the labels and security tags on them. There was no evidence in the brief as to what store the clothes came from. Our criminal lawyer argued that there was no evidence of who the owner was and therefore the offence could not be proved. The magistrate agreed and dismissed the charge, finding our client not guilty.


The Crimes Act 1900 No 40, Current version for 1 April 2022 to date (accessed 23 April 2022 at 14:19)

This information is intended as a general guide to law only.  It should not be relied on as legal advice, and it is recommended that you speak with a qualified lawyer about your situation.

Australian Criminal Law Group and its suppliers make every reasonable effort to ensure the accuracy and validity of the information provided on its web pages. At the time of updating, this information was correct, however, given the laws in NSW and Australia are continually changing, the Australian Criminal Law Group makes no warranties or representations as to its accuracy. 



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