Larceny is a serious offense in the military. An allegation alone can result in a service member being labeled a “barracks thief” and quickly ruin their reputation and standing in the command. If convicted, a service member faces the possibility of confinement, punitive discharge, and the loss of important military benefits.
MJA has represented service members accused of theft occurring both on and off post, involving military and non-military property. Contact one of our military defense lawyers today to learn more.
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Article 121, UCMJ, criminalizes the offenses of larceny and wrongful appropriation. Related punitive articles include fraudulent use of credit/debit cards (Article 121a), and false pretenses to obtain services (Article 121b). The latter punitive articles are increasingly being used by military prosecutors to charge theft through the misuse of government charge cards or government vehicle gas cards.
Larceny. To be guilty of larceny, the government must prove the following elements:
Importantly, the taking, obtaining, or withholding of the property must be wrongful. An act is not wrongful if authorized by law or superior orders, or if done by a person who has an equal or greater right to the property.
Wrongful Appropriation. Wrongful appropriation occurs when person unlawfully takes someone else’s property, but doesn’t intend to keep the property permanently. The elements for wrongful appropriation are:
A basic illustration shows difference between the two offenses. For example, a person who steals a car with the intent to keep it or sell it, commits the offense of larceny. However, if that same person takes the car without permission–let’s say to go joyriding–but fully intends to return the vehicle, they’ve committed the crime of wrongful appropriation. The difference between the two crimes comes down to intent.
The punishment for larceny increases based on the value and type of the property stolen. In general, however, charges of larceny or any misuse of government property can result in extremely harsh punishments including a punitive discharge and significant confinement.
The lowest charge of larceny–i.e. larceny of property less than $1,000–carries a potential bad conduct discharge and 1 year confinement. At the high end of the punishment scale is larceny of military property more than $1,000. This offense carries up to 10 years confinement and a dishonorable discharge.
In contrast, the lowest charge for wrongful appropriation carries no discharge and 3 months confinement. The most serious wrongful appropriation offense, involving military property more than $1,000, carries the risk of a dishonorable discharge and two years confinement.
Protect Your Freedom and Future in the Military
If you are under investigation for any type of theft, wrongful appropriation, or misuse of government resources, call MJA today at (843) 473-3665 for a free consultation.