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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 ?
Det Con, John Eaton from West Midlands Police Force CID, said: "It is believed that this man is a persistent petty thief, who makes his living committing crime.
It follows the interweaving stories of three equally flawed men: a crooked copper struggling for redemption in the wake of his partner's death; a journalist struggling with his own dark secrets, and a petty thief whose ruthless slaying of three policemen sparks a 20-year manhunt.
a 12-year-old girl on the streets with 'her uncle' who is a beggar, a petty thief. Colibri does whatever her uncle wants her to do ...
Petty thief Cosimo (Guzman) plots the perfect heist of a safe in a disused warehouse in Collinwood, a working class neighbourhood on the east side of Cleveland.
Three weeks ago John Dillon, a petty thief who was a getaway driver for an armed robbery last year, was shot dead at his Finglas home.
Parker Quarry is a twelve-year-old petty thief and all-around troublemaker.
A PETTY thief believed to be the most convicted person in British legal history has appeared in court after clocking up offences 500 and 501.
Convinced Arthur must have a multimillion-dollar safety net concealed in his penthouse, Josh approaches petty thief Slide (Eddie Murphy) to plot the perfect heist.
A PETTY thief given a reference by a Midland MP which was used to apply for a pounds 10 million fraudulent mortgage has been released from bail.
Petty thief Sean, described in court as a pathological liar with a severe personality disorder, was jailed for life at Winchester Crown Court after making a number of confessions.
She lived her life alone and was facing a bleak retirement until a petty thief and a pregnant girl turned up on the doorstep.
They take the lead roles of petty thief Harry Lockhart and detective Gay Perry, who continually rub each other up the wrong way It's a scintillating pairing and the sparring between the two is electrifying, as both men use wit andgood old-fashioned sarcasm to make their point.