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Larceny Penalties and Sentencing

After a conviction for larceny (also called theft, depending on the state), the trial concludes with the sentencing phase to determine penalties and conditions of the conviction. At sentencing, a number of factors come into play to determine what penalty the defendant will receive. Those factors include the sentencing range laid out in the law itself, aggravating and mitigating factors and, for larceny convictions, whether the crime amounted to grand or petit larceny.

The laws governing larceny will usually contain sentencing options, either a list of possible sentences or a range of years, as well as fines or other alternative sentences. Judges can determine the appropriate sentence by examining the facts of the case and choosing the best penalty that falls within the bounds of the statute.

In a larceny case, the type of larceny will also greatly influence the severity of the sentence. Grand larcenies carry much longer sentences than do petit (or "petty") larcenies. Some states also impose different sentences based on the type of item that the defendant stole.

For example, in California, a grand theft of a firearm could result in a sentence of 16 months, two years or three years. All other grand thefts would result in imprisonment in a county jail of up to a year. Petty thefts, on the other hand, carry a possible sentence of up to six months in a county jail and a potential fine of up to $1,000.

By contrast, in New York there are several degrees of grand larceny, determined mostly by the value of the stolen property. The penalties for these degrees of grand larcenies range from one to twelve years imprisonment, subject to a judge's discretion. Petit larcenies, however, are misdemeanors and punishable by a prison term of up to a year.

When deciding what sentence to impose within all the possibilities listed under a statute, judges will examine the facts of the case itself, as well as other aggravating and mitigating factors.

Aggravating factors tend to make the crime more serious. They typically include such things as the defendant's criminal history and whether or not the victim was particularly vulnerable, and the presence of aggravating factors usually results in a harsher sentence. Mitigating factors usually influence judges to hand down a more lenient sentence, such as when the defendant has taken responsibility for the crime or has no previous criminal history.

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