Petit Larceny In Prince William County
In Prince William County, petit larceny is anything but petty. Petit Larceny is a misdemeanor offense under Virginia Code Section 18.2-96. It is the wrongful taking from another person of less than $5, or of another person’s property with a value less than $200, without that owner’s permission with the intent to permanently deprive that owner of said property. In common terms, it can be referred to as petty theft or stealing. A close relative of this offense is “concealment,” more commonly known as shoplifting, under Virginia Code Section 18.2-103. The maximum punishments for both petit larceny and concealment or shoplifting are 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.
Petit Larceny and concealment are in the same misdemeanor class as DWI/DUI, simple assault and battery, and trespassing; however, theft crimes are treated much more harshly than those other crimes in Prince William County. It is the general policy of the judges of the county, as well as the prosecutor’s office, to require at least one day of active jail time to be served for a first conviction. This policy applies to anyone convicted, for almost any kind of theft, even if the person has no prior criminal record. By contrast, a first offense DWI or assault conviction can result in a completely suspended jail sentence in Prince William County. Some offenses, like trespassing or possession of drugs, have first offender programs under which charges can be dismissed in first offense cases. But in Prince William County, stealing will usually result in a jail sentence.
Which raises the question: why does Prince William County prosecute theft more harshly than other crimes? One can speculate, but perhaps an explanation can be found in the presence of Potomac Mills Mall. Potomac Mills Mall has over 200 stores, thousands of employees, and generates a significant amount of revenue for the state and the county. Could it be that the presence of Potomac Mills has influenced the Prince William County judicial system to treat shoplifting and other theft crimes more harshly than other jurisdictions? I am reminded of a conversation I once had with a former prosecutor in another jurisdiction, who told me that their office prosecuted theft offenses from a particular retailer because of the retailer’s influence in that jurisdiction.
Ultimately, perhaps the reasons why are irrelevant. If you commit a petit larceny offense in Prince William County, just realize that law enforcement, prosecution and judiciary do not consider it petty at all.