Theft Crimes: Larceny, Grand Theft, & Embezzlement


One type of theft is larceny. Larceny is simply the taking of property from the possession of another person who has a superior right to its possession, and with the intent to permanently deprive. We commonly refer to this as theft.

There are different classifications of theft and larceny, depending, in part, on the value of the item stolen. Grand theft is committed when the money, labor, or real or personal property taken is of a value exceeding nine hundred and fifty dollars ($950). (Penal Code Section 487)

Petty theft is theft, in all cases other than grand theft, (theft with value less than $950.)


Embezzlement is another type of theft. Embezzlement is the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been entrusted. Embezzlement requires the transfer of ownership of the property. The defendant in an embezzlement case has the rightful possession of the property, but then unlawfully transfers ownership of the property. For example, a valet driver has the rightful possession of a car from a restaurant patron. However, if the valet then uses the car for his own personal use, the valet has embezzled the vehicle from the owner. Similarly, a cashier has the lawful possession of the business’s money. But, when the cashier pockets that money, embezzlement occurs.


California Penal Code Section 240 states: “An assault is an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another.” Note, an assault does not require an actual touching or use of force upon another. The mere attempt to injure another is an assault.


Section 242 of the California Penal Code defines battery: “A battery is any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.” Excessive use of force, even in a situation when force is allowed, can be a battery upon a person.

As a security officer, you know that you have a right to use reasonable force to overcome resistance in order to make a lawful arrest or to defend yourself or others. However, if you use more force than is reasonable, then it is deemed to be “excessive force.” Use of excessive force can be charged as a battery.

Disorderly Conduct Crimes

Health and Safety Code Section 11350 and the sections following, prohibit the possession or sale of controlled substances. In addition, a person may be violating Penal Code Section 647(f) if the individual is “found in a public place under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, [or] controlled substance . . . in such a condition that her or she is unable to exercise care for his or her own safety or the safety of others . . .”

Local Ordinances

The security professional must also be aware of local ordinances. Local ordinances may be very specific and can involve prohibitions of various activities such as skateboarding, loitering, bicycling and trespass. The ordinances are fully enforceable, just as those laws passed by our State Legislators. This subject is covered in detail in the Powers to Arrest course.