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A criminal act in which property belonging to another is taken without that person's consent.

The term theft is sometimes used synonymously with Larceny. Theft, however, is actually a broader term, encompassing many forms of deceitful taking of property, including swindling, Embezzlement, and False Pretenses. Some states categorize all these offenses under a single statutory crime of theft.


Burglary; Robbery.


n. the generic term for all crimes in which a person intentionally and fraudulently takes personal property of another without permission or consent and with the intent to convert it to the taker's use (including potential sale). In many states, if the value of the property taken is low (for example, less than $500) the crime is "petty theft," but it is "grand theft" for larger amounts, designated misdemeanor, or felony, respectively. Theft is synonymous with "larceny." Although robbery (taking by force), burglary (taken by entering unlawfully), and embezzlement (stealing from an employer) are all commonly thought of as theft, they are distinguished by the means and methods used, and are separately designated as those types of crimes in criminal charges and statutory punishments. (See: larceny, robbery, burglary, embezzlement)


noun burglary, embezzlement, felonious taking, filchery, fraudulent taking, furtum, larceny, looting, misappropriation, peculation, pilferage, pilfering, robbery, stealing, swindling, thievery, wrongful taking
Associated concepts: theft of services
Foreign phrases: Contrectatio rei alienae animo furando, est furtum.The touching or removing of another's propprty, with an intention of stealing, is theft.
See also: burglary, conversion, embezzlement, housebreaking, larceny, misappropriation, plunder, robbery, spoliation


in English law, now defined in statutory terms as the dishonest appropriation of property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it. The law has, however, been complicated by semantic arguments, leading the Court of Appeal to say that the law is in urgent need of reform to make cases understandable to juries. Wheel-clamping is not theft in England (contrary to the position in Scotland) because there is not the intention to permanently deprive.

In Scots criminal law, the felonious taking or appropriation (or retention) of the property of another without his consent and (in most cases, but not necessarily) with the intention to deprive him of it permanently. Wheel-clamping has been held to be theft in Scotland, even although the vehicle is not moved by the clamper.

THEFT, crimes. This word is sometimes used as synonymous with larceny, (q.v.) but it is not so technical. Ayliffe's Pand. 581 2 Swift's Dig. 309.
     2. In the Scotch law, this is a proper and technical word, and signifies the secret and felonious abstraction of the property of another for sake of lucre, without his consent. Alison, Princ. Cr. Law of Scotl. 250.

References in periodicals archive ?
Broken doors and windows and petty theft were the most common problems.
Whether it's petty theft, broken windows, intimidation and harassment or graffiti, honest businesses of all sizes and types right across the country are footing the bill for what is socially unacceptable behaviour.
A petty theft charge is punishable by six months in jail, a much lighter sentence than the 3-1/2 years Lohan could face if convicted of grand theft.
Summary: Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud on Tuesday raised the issue of petty theft that has been spreading across Lebanon.
Tim O'Connor for calling the police to stake out an elderly beloved parishioner whom he suspected of petty theft from the collection plate (NCR, Jan.
Maxi's family earns a living from petty theft, and things get complicated when Maxi falls in love with Victor, a handsome, older police officer.
She served time for burglary, petty theft, vehicle theft, receiving stolen property, escaping prison and possession of a controlled substance.
Crime accounts for one-fifth of our entire claim book and while most are low-level, inexpensive crimes such as petty theft and malicious damage, some claims run into tens of thousands of pounds.
Overall more than one in ten British holidaymakers have experienced petty theft overseas and a further 27 per cent know someone who has fallen victim to this crime.
Addicts are apparently feeding their deadly habit through petty theft and shoplifting.
I was doing a lot of petty theft and stuff to support my habit.
Corrections officials estimate that 2,120 people--enough to fill about one-half of a prison--are serving time for petty theft with a prior offense.