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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 ?
It''s a genuinely funny game of nudge nudge, wink wink, with the drop-deadgorgeous Robert Downey Jr as a petty thief who winds up playing gumshoe.
in the near future, sixteen-year-old Sam Wilson graduates from talented computer hacker and petty thief to cyber warrior in an heroic battle against cyber terrorism.
The court heard that when Hobday was arrested he did not feel that what he was doing was wrong and that he was not "some petty thief that steals from houses.
Would it be that all a convicted petty thief has to do in future is say "I'll pay it back" to those sitting in judgement?
The persistent petty thief, real name William Armstrong, targeted a churchgoer at prayer in the city's St Mary's Cathedral.
Jake is a worker himself, abused by his drunken father, illiterate, a petty thief.
A petty thief, a teacher and a lawyer die and go to Heaven.
THE STORYHarry Lockhart (Downey Jr) is a petty thief mistaken for an actor who's introduced to gay private eye Gay Perry (Kilmer) for some "role research".
In a nutshell: Terrifically entertaining postmodern noir comedy about a petty thief unraveling a murder mystery on the wannabe edge of Hollywood.
A PETTY thief who stole a jumper and a set of knives is facing jail.
A SENIOR Catholic priest who collected thousands of images of young children having sex has been sentenced to nine months - less than a petty thief would get.
Starring Robert Downey Jr, Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan, "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" tells the story of a petty thief brought to Hollywood for an unlikely audition when he finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation with his high school crush.