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North Carolina Criminal Law 14-72(b)(4): Felony Larceny of a Firearm

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

police investigation Under North Carolina Criminal Law Chapter 14-72(b)(4), the crime of felonious larceny of a firearm is defined as the taking and carrying away of another’s firearm without his consent, intending at that time to deprive him of its use permanently, the Defendant knowing he was not entitled to take the firearm.

Larceny of a Firearm in North Carolina is a specific intent criminal charge. It requires the intent to take away, steal, and permanently deprive the owner of the firearm.

To prove felonious larceny of a firearm, the State must prove, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, the following essential elements. The “first facts,” also known as prima facie evidence, include things like:

  1. Defendant took a firearm belonging to the victim (a description of the type of firearm is required)
  2. Defendant carried away the firearm
  3. Victim did not consent to the Defendant taking and carrying away of the firearm
  4. Victim did not give permission to the Defendant to carry away or take the firearm
  5. When he took the firearm, the Defendant intended to deprive the victim of its use permanently
  6. Defendant knew, or reasonably should have known, that he was not entitled to take the firearm from the alleged victim

Larceny of a firearm is a felony regardless of the value of the firearm. As such, it does not matter whether the firearm was worth $1,000.01 or more in order to constitute a felony charge in NC.

If the property was taken from the possession of the victim and was under the control of the defendant for any period of time, even if only for an instant, this would constitute a taking.

It also may satisfy the element of intent or mens rea to commit the larceny.

“Firearm” includes “any instrument used in the propulsion of a shot, shell or bullet by the action of gunpowder or any other explosive substance within it.”

A “firearm,” which at the time of theft is not capable of being fired shall be included within this definition if it can be made to work.

Theft of broken and inoperable firearms, if they are capable of repair, are subject to the NC larceny law.

The definition of a “firearm,” as set forth in North Carolina Criminal Law Chapter 14-72(b), does not include air rifles or air pistols.

In order to prove that the Defendant “carried away the firearm,” the slightest movement is sufficient. That is true also for the duration and extent of removal, which may be de minimis as well.

2. Examples
  1. Employee goes hunting with co-workers. Employee brings his own gun with him, a Bonelli 12-gauge shotgun that is black in color. Employee and co-workers are taking pictures at the end of the hunt.

Employee mistakenly takes another co-workers shotgun which is the same brand and color as his. Employee is charged with felonious larceny of a firearm. Employee cannot be convicted if he honestly believed he was entitled to take the property.

  1. Son gets into an argument with his step-dad. Son takes step-dad two air rifles and sells them to a pawn shop. Son cannot be charged with felonious larceny of a firearm. However, if the property he took is worth over $1,000, then Son can be charged under North Carolina Criminal Chapter 14-70: Felonious Larceny of Property over $1,000
  2. Defendant is dove hunting with some friends. Defendant sees an open unattended SUV with a brand new shotgun lying in the back of the vehicle. Defendant takes the weapon and leaves the field with his friends. Defendant can be charged with felonious larceny of a firearm. The Defendant may also be indicted for Felony Breaking and Entering a Motor Vehicle.
3. Similar Offenses and Related Legal Issues
  1. North Carolina Criminal Law 14-56: Breaking or Entering Into a Motor Vehicle
  2. North Carolina Criminal Law 14-72(A): Felonious Larceny - Goods Worth More Than $1,000
  3. North Carolina Criminal Law 14-90: Embezzlement of Property by Virtue of Office or Employment
  4. What Does Indictment Mean in North Carolina?
  5. Burdens of Proof in Criminal Court and Civil Court in the Carolinas
4. Defenses to Felonious Larceny of a Firearm

Larceny charges, including Felony Larceny of a Firearm, are specific intent crimes under the Common Law. As such, traditional Common Law Defenses may be available including:

  1. Mistake of Fact
  2. Permission

If a criminal defendant, whether for a felony or misdemeanor charge, makes a “mistake of fact,” that would negate an essential element of larceny.

If the person accused of a crime of theft (larceny) believed the property at issue was rightfully his, the mistake or misunderstanding would negate the intent to deprive the owner of the property (including a firearm) from rightful use or possession.

A mistake of fact must be objectively reasonable and honest in their belief.

A “mistake” would be one that the Finder of Fact finds reasonable and grounded in a good faith belief. Factual issues in felony charges in North Carolina are ordinarily decided by a jury of your peers.

A recent amendment to the NC Constitution authorizes, in certain circumstances, the accused to waive their right to a Trial by Jury, thereby consenting to the Superior Court Judge to determine both issues of law and issues of fact.

In District Court proceedings, which include primarily misdemeanor charges including misdemeanor larceny, the Finder of Fact is the Judge.

In District Criminal Court there are no juries.

Appeals of misdemeanor charges in North Carolina to Superior Court afford the accused their NC Constitutional Right to a trial by jury.

In the event a Defendant is advised the property at issue was not his and further that he did not have permission to take the property, it would not be reasonable for the Defendant to mistakenly believe he could rightfully remove or take the property.

Permission and “consent” to take personal property may also serve as a defense. The Defendant must reasonably believe the victim gave his consent or permission to take the item at issue.

Permission can be retracted, rescinded, or revoked.

If permission is revoked and the Defendant refuses to return the property, he could be charged and convicted of larceny.

5. Penalties

Felonious Larceny of a Firearm is a Class H felony punishable by a maximum period of incarceration of 39 months in a state correctional facility (the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections or “DAC.”)

Punishments are more fully set forth in the NC Sentencing Guidelines and are a calculated using a formula for the offender’s Prior Record Level or “PRL.”

Punishments for felony larceny in the North Carolina may also include things like:

  1. Probation (Supervised or Un-Supervised)
  2. Restitution
  3. Costs of Court
  4. Community Service
  5. Substance Abuse Assessment and Treatment
  6. Fees associated with Probation and Community Service
6. Criminal Defense for Felony Larceny of a Firearm

If you have been charged with felonious larceny of a firearm, you should seek immediate legal advice from an an experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney.

We advise you of your legal rights under the NC Criminal Laws and the Constitution of North Carolina. Our goal is to guide you through the court process, helping you understand the possible penalties and consequences for both felony and misdemeanor criminal charges.

Our team of Charlotte defense attorneys will instruct you on all valid defenses you may have.

Convictions for crimes involving theft, dishonesty, or “moral turpitude, such as larceny, can prevent you from getting a good job in the future or even finding a place to live.

Call NOW 704-342-4357 to schedule your complementary legal consultation with our Charlotte Criminal Defense Attorneys. Everything discussed during consultation is confidential.

Email Bill Powers at Bill@CarolinaAttorneys.com

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