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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.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


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)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.


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.

Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

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.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in periodicals archive ?
If there was a call from a high street store reporting a petty theft or a car going 5mph over the speed limit there would have been an immediate response but my colleague's head was treated like football and the police are not interested.
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.
"Crime accounts for one-fifth of our entire claim book and while most are low-level and inexpensive such as petty theft and malicious damage, some run into tens of thousands of pounds.
I was doing a lot of petty theft and stuff to support my habit.
Local jail and probation officials are taking a wait-and-see approach to new prosecution policies that will re-emphasize petty theft, de-emphasize minor drug crimes and reduce the number of offenders put on probation.
"One of the most disturbing aspects of the current investment climate in Pakistan is the very poor and, by all indications, deteriorating law and order situation in which too many businesses are routinely exposed to crime ranging from petty theft to organised or sectarian violence," the Bank observed in a current report.
McCulloch adjudges that many of those convicted "were at worst guilty of petty theft or common assault" (p.
University police investigators have recommended that the city mayor be charged with petty theft. The recommendation came a month after 1,000 copies of the University of California at Berkeley's student newspaper were stolen.
Rehman says he hopes his administration's request will be granted, adding that crime, including incidents of petty theft, was reduced to a minimum during Taliban rule because of this form of punishment.
Two recent decisions by a federal appeal court have undermined the California law's harshest provision, ruling that sentencing defendants to life when their third strike is petty theft violates the Eighth Amendment.
Ray the Cat, who died a year ago, spent 33 years in prison, accused of petty theft and assault, and Mr Morgan is hoping he can carry out Ray's dying wish - to have his life story published.