(redirected from Petty thief)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Encyclopedia.


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 ?
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.
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.
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.
The programme looks at how Becky, a petty thief who made Kelly Crabtree's life a misery, initially seemed like an unlikely candidate for the position of national soap treasure.
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.
She lived her life alone and was facing a bleak retirement until a petty thief and a pregnant girl turned up on the doorstep.
PETTY thief Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr), on the run for a botched robbery, barges into a movie audition by mistake and finds himself up for the part of a Hollywood detective.
Downey plays petty thief Harry Lockhart who's on the run but still manages to win the lead role of a tough cop in a Hollywood movie.
The petty thief had laid in wait for a woman to pass by that night, while his own heavily-pregnant girlfriend was at home just weeks away from giving birth to his child.
This sly wink of a tale tells the story of a petty thief named Montmorency.