Criminal Law


Theft is the unlawful taking of another's property.

Common Law

At common law, theft offenses were segregated into many separate offenses depending on how the property was obtained:


Larceny is the trespassory taking and carrying away of another's property with the intent to permanently deprive the possessor of the property.

  • "Trespass" means a legal trespass, i.e., without consent or justification.

Courts later added "larceny by trick" in case the item was taken by ruse.

Theft by False Pretenses

Theft by false pretenses is when one tricks another into giving him actual title to property through fraud.


Embezzlement is when one has lawful possession of another's property but is then converted with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property.

Extortion is also similar to theft:


Extortion is the taking of something by threat or fear.

It is very similar to theft.

Model Penal Code

The Model Penal Code and several states have consolidated the various theft crimes into one single theft provision with subcategories.

Regardless of how they are categorized, theft generally requires that the defendant:

  1. Physically take and carry away or
  2. Use deception, fraud, or extortion to take
  3. The victim's property
  4. With the intent to permanently deprive the victim of the property.