Mississippi, like other states, defines theft in terms of the property value. In summary, petit larceny, or “petty theft,” is misdemeanor theft while grand larceny is a felony.
Understanding the distinctions Mississippi makes for different types of theft can help Mississippians plan a defense.
As FindLaw reports, Mississippi state law defines petit larceny as stealing property worth less than $1,000. A petit larceny charge may see sentences of up to six months in county jail and fines of up to $1,000, commensurate with the crime.
However, if the stolen property belongs to a house of worship such as a church or mosque, punishments can be more severe. Mississippi has unique laws protecting faith-based institutions.
Petit larceny becomes grand larceny in Mississippi when the stolen property value exceeds $1,000, but as the value of the property increases, so does the class of the felony and the maximum sentence.
Charges can become more severe if the crime is in conjunction with other offenses, such as assault, unlawful use of a firearm, habitual offenses or resisting arrest.
When facing a theft charge, defendants have several options concerning their plea. Defendants may be able to argue that they mistakenly believed the property belonged to them. Particularly if they are able to show that they were intoxicated at the time of the theft or had other reason to make the mistake, they may have a solid claim. Returning the property voluntarily may help demonstrate innocence before a court.
Defendants may also be able to claim that the theft was due to entrapment. Plea options will ultimately depend on the unique circumstances of each case.