larceny by trick | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Criminal Law

Larceny by Trick is a type of theft crime that involves obtaining possession of another person’s property through deceit or fraudulent means.

Imagine you’re at a bustling market. A stranger approaches you, claiming to be an antique collector. They persuade you to hand over your vintage pocket watch for appraisal. You comply, but the stranger disappears with your watch. You’ve just been a victim of Larceny by Trick.

This crime is a subset of larceny, a broader theft crime. The defining feature is the method used to gain possession of the property. Instead of taking the property forcefully or sneakily, the offender uses deceptive methods. They might lie, make false promises, or create misleading situations. The victim hands over the property, fooled by the trickery.

Core Elements of Larceny by Trick

There are specific elements that constitute Larceny by Trick. These are the building blocks that make up the crime. The prosecution must prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt to convict someone of this offense.

  1. Deceit or Fraudulent Representation: The offender must use deceit or a fraudulent act to secure the victim’s trust. They may lie or create a false scenario to trick the victim into handing over their property.
  2. Intent to Steal: The offender must have the aim to permanently deprive the victim of their property. If they intend to return the item, it’s not Larceny by Trick.
  3. Transfer of Possession: The victim willingly hands over the property to the offender. They do this based on the misleading act or fraudulent representation by the offender.

Larceny by Trick in Practice

There are countless examples of Larceny by Trick in the real world. It can range from a simple trick to an elaborate scam. Here are a few examples.

  1. Bank Fraud: An offender might pose as a bank representative. They trick the victim into providing their account details, promising to help with a banking issue. Once they get access, they steal money from the account.
  2. Charity Scam: A person could claim to be collecting money for a charity. The unsuspecting victim hands over money, thinking it’s for a good cause. But, the money goes straight into the offender’s pocket.
  3. Antique Scam: As illustrated earlier, an offender could pretend to be an antique collector or dealer. They convince the victim to hand over a valuable item for inspection, then disappear with the item.

The Severity of Larceny by Trick

The seriousness of Larceny by Trick depends on various factors. The value of the property stolen is a significant factor. A crime involving a high-value item will be seen as more severe than one involving a low-value item. Other circumstances, like the vulnerability of the victim or whether the offender is a repeat offender, can also impact the severity of the punishment.


Larceny by Trick is a fascinating aspect of theft crimes. It showcases the cunning methods some criminals use to steal other people’s property. Understanding the elements and real-world examples of this crime can help us be more aware of potential risks. It’s a reminder that not all thefts occur by force or stealth; sometimes, they occur right under our noses, disguised by a veil of deceit.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 05/29/2023

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