SUMMARY: In North Carolina, misdemeanor larceny is a Class 1 misdemeanor, and can carry an active jail sentence of up to 4 months. See NCGS 14-72(a).

In my experience in District Court in North Carolina, one of the most common charges people pick up is misdemeanor larceny.  When you are accused of stealing property worth $1,000 or less, barring certain circumstances, you will likely be charged with misdemeanor larceny.

Often the complainants (persons or entities bringing the charge) are big box or department stores.  Some of these stores, and I am not naming names, expend tremendous amounts of resources discovering, apprehending, and prosecuting petty misdemeanor larcenies that occur on their property.  Many people are unaware that some of these stores have zero-tolerance policies, and will press charges no matter the age of the defendants or the value of the products they are caught stealing.

Many people are also unaware that stealing a product worth less than $10 could result in a Class 1 misdemeanor larceny conviction.  As far as the law is concerned, there is no difference between a larceny of foot lotion worth $6 and a larceny of a television worth $1,000 (remember, the property can be worth up to $1,000, just not a penny more or you’re in felony territory).  In my experience doing expungements, I have found that misdemeanor larcenies on my clients’ criminal records are taken very seriously by potential employers, even when the charges were ultimately dismissed.

Misdemeanor larceny is also one of those crimes where a sufficient number of convictions can lead to habitual status (i.e. you are charged and sentenced with a felony).  In North Carolina, if you have 4 or more prior larceny convictions (whether misdemeanor or felony, whether in North Carolina or in any other state), you can be charged with a Class H Felony for your fifth larceny, even if it would otherwise qualify as a misdemeanor larceny of property worth $1,000 or less.

The bottom line is that if you are charged with misdemeanor larceny, don’t take it lightly, and seek legal counsel.  If you are able to have the charge dismissed or are found not guilty, you may be able to expunge the charge from your record.  If you are found guilty, you may still be able to expunge it, but you will have to wait longer, and the eligibility requirements will be more difficult to meet.