Authorities believe that violent crimes on the Carolina coast may be fueled by a dramatic increase in gun thefts.
Police have recovered only a fraction of the 1,440 weapons reported stolen in Wilmington/New Hanover over the past five years, and Captain Jim Varrone of the Wilmington Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division estimates that over 90 percent of the area’s violent crimes involve at least one stolen gun. Additionally, according to a survey of jail inmates, stolen guns are often used as cash to finance drug purchases and other illicit activity. Authorities link the number of gun thefts with the number of legal sales, which have increased significantly in recent years. However, the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office does not believe there is a one-to-one relationship with guns and violent crime, and that a decrease in supply would not necessarily mean a decrease in crime.
Over a third of gun theft incidents involve burglary of a vehicle; in a majority of these cases, the burglar used an unlocked car door to gain access to the weapon.
North Carolina has some of the broadest theft laws in the country. The statute does not define the phrase, but at common law, larceny involves the taking of tangible or intangible goods or services without the owner’s effective consent and with the intent to permanently deprive the owner. All these terms have specific meanings, which will be discussed below.
The statute does identify some specific situations, including:
- Concealing Store Merchandise: This offense may also involve altering a price tag or similar efforts.
- Receiving Stolen Property: Constructive knowledge (i.e. the defendant had a reason to believe the property was stolen) is usually enough to support a conviction.
- Gasoline Larceny: Driving away from a gas pump without paying is just one theft-of-services item.
- Larceny of Automobile Parts: This offense is normally charged alongside a burglary of a vehicle offense.
Larceny, depending on the value of the item(s), is often a felony in North Carolina.
It is often difficult for the state to prove ownership in these cases, because the trial usually takes place months or even years after the underlying offense. During this period, the owner sometimes loses interest in the case and is unwilling to press charges further. Other times, the “owner” named in the charging instrument is a store manager or clerk who has since relocated and is unavailable at trial.
Intent to permanently deprive is sometimes an issue as well. Many times, the statute preempts this defense; for example, in a shoplifting case, intent to permanently deprive can be presumed from concealment. But other situations are in a grey area, such as “borrowing” property and not returning it straightaway.
A Strong Voice for Defendants
A larceny conviction can mean a lengthy prison sentence. For a confidential consultation with Charlotte attorneys who are on your side, contact Remington & Dixon, PLLC.
Brandon double-majored in Political Science and Criminal Justice at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He earned his Juris Doctor from Barry University School of Law in Orlando, Florida. Throughout his career, Brandon has received numerous awards and recognition from his peers and agencies that rate attorneys. A few of these awards are from The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 Trial Lawyer in 2014, The National Trial Lawyers: Top 40 Under 40 in 2014, Nation’s Top One Percent: National Association of Distinguished Counsel in 2015, Super Lawyers: Rising Stars in 2018 and 2019, and North Carolina Business Magazine: Legal Elite in 2019, among others.