Habitual Misdemeanor Larceny

If A Defendant Has Four Or More Prior Larceny Convictions, A Subsequent Larceny Offense Is A Felony.

Under North Carolina law, larceny could be charged at the felony level if the larceny was: “from the person,”[1] done in conjunction with a burglary,[2] “[o]f any explosive or incendiary device or substance,”[3] “of any firearm,”[4] or of a North Carolina Archives record.[5] The value of the property, in all those cases, is irrelevant.[6] Where the value of the property is relevant is in all other cases where the property value is more than $1,000.[7] In that case, the larceny is a felony.[8]

Where the value of the property is less than $1,000, the charge is a Class 1 misdemeanor.[9]

However, starting December 1, 2012, there is now one more way for larceny to be elevated to a felony level charge. [10] The new law is as follows:

“[The crime of larceny is a felony…if the larceny is… [c]omitted after the defendant has been convicted in this
State or in another jurisdiction for any offense of larceny under this section, or any offense deemed or punishable as larceny under this section, or of any substantially similar offense in any other jurisdiction, regardless of whether the prior convictions were misdemeanors, felonies, or a combination thereof, at least four times. A conviction shall not be included in the four prior convictions required under this subdivision unless the defendant was represented by counsel or waived counsel at first appearance or otherwise prior to trial or plea. If a person is convicted of more than one offense of misdemeanor larceny in a single session of district court, or in a single week of superior court or of a court in another jurisdiction, only one of the convictions may be used as a prior conviction under this subdivision; except that convictions based upon offenses which occurred in separate counties shall each count as a separate prior conviction under this subdivision."[11]

Essentially, you get four strikes and you’re out on the fifth (or sixth or seventh…).[12]

The magic number of “four” prior convictions took some time to get to, as the legislature when through several revisions of the statute before arriving at the number “four.”[13] Regardless, that is the version that is ratified and signed into law,[14] and criminal defendants need to be aware of the possible consequences of repeated violations, as the punishments between felony levels and misdemeanors are substantial.

Depending upon the criminal defendant’s prior record, a Class 1 misdemeanor carries a possible jail sentence of 1-120 days, minimum, with probation, fines, costs, etc., often being the typical punishment.[15] Conversely, a low level felony, depending upon the defendant’s record, can carry a possible minimum sentence of several months up to several years.[16]

If you are being charged with larceny or if you think there is a possibility that this new law may apply to your case, please contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you. With the recent change, much more is now at stake than ever before.

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-72(b)(1) (2011).
Id. at 14-72(b)(2).
3 Id. at 14-72(b)(3).
4 Id. at 14-72(b)(4).
5 Id. at 14-72(b)(5).
6 Id. at 14-72(b).
7 Id. at 14-72(a)
8 Id.
9 Id.
10 Habitual Misdemeanor Larceny, Session Law 2012-154.
Habitual Misdemeanor Larceny, Session Law 2012-154.
See id.; Chris Mackey, “Gov. Perdue Signs 38 Bills,” Press Release, Office of Governor Bev Purdue
(July 13, 2012), http://www.governor.state.nc.us/NewsItems/PressReleaseDetail.aspx?newsItemID=2502.
13 Habitual Misdemeanor Larceny, H.B. 54 (Feb. 9, 2011) (citing three prior conviction), available at http:/
/www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2011/Bills/House/HTML/H54v1.html; Habitual Misdemeanor Larceny, H.B. 54
(Feb. 9, 2011) (citing seven prior conviction), available at http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2011/Bills/House/
14 H.B. 54/Session Law 2012-154, North Carolina General Assembly, Legislative History, available at http:/
15 See Misdemeanor Punishment Chart, Administrative Office of the Courts, available at http://
16 See Felony Punishment Chart, Administrative Office of the Courts, available at http://www.nccourts.org/

Matthew Leach is an associate with King Law Offices, serving the McDowell County area as the full-time attorney in the Marion, North Carolina office.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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