Richardson v. Commonwealth (1997) – Case Brief Summary (Virginia)

In Richardson v. Commonwealth, 25 Va. App. 491, 495, 489 S.E.2d 697 (1997), in which the takings of two purses from a nursing station on the tenth floor of a hospital complex were held to constitute a single larceny, the court recognized that a series of thefts in rapid succession pursuant to a general scheme to steal from distinct locations, "such as different shops, stores or buildings, will constitute separate offenses." Id. at 497.

There, the defendant also had stolen items from offices in two other buildings of the hospital complex, on the same day. His two additional theft convictions based on those takings were affirmed, upon a decision that they were separate offenses, "even though they were in furtherance of the defendant's general scheme to steal." Id. at 494 n.1.

The court explained:

When the evidence supports a finding that the thefts were part of the same larcenous impulse or scheme and were part of a continuous act, a single larceny has occurred. The primary factor to be considered is the intent of the thief and the question to be asked is whether the thefts, although occurring successively within a brief time frame, were part of one impulse. The circumstances to be considered that will bear upon the issue are the location of the items stolen, the lapse of time between their taking, the general and specific intent of the thief, the number of owners, and whether intervening events occurred between the takings. Unless the evidence proves that two or more separate and discrete thefts occurred at separate times which were not part of the same larcenous impulse, then thefts from the same room are but a single larceny.

The controlling factor is not that the evidence proves the thief had a general scheme or intent to steal, for example from various stores in a mall or various offices in a complex, but rather whether the thief was acting under the same impulse to steal at the time of both thefts. The evidence must be sufficient for the fact finder to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the thief formed separate and distinct intents or impulses to steal in order to constitute separate larcenies. (Id. at 497-98.)