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Military Larceny Defense Lawyer

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.

Article 121, UCMJ (Larceny and wrongful appropriation)

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:

  • That the accused wrongfully took, obtained, or withheld property;
  • That the property belonged to a certain person;
  • That the property was of a certain value; and
  • That the act was done with an intent to permanently deprive the true owner of the property.

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:

  • That the accused wrongfully took, obtained, or withheld property;
  • That the property belonged to a certain person;
  • That the property was of a certain value; and
  • That the act was done with an intent to temporarily deprive the true owner of the property.

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.

Maximum Penalties

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.

What Our Clients Say

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    The relief we felt when we received that phone call from Joshua Hill was something I cannot even describe. If you want someone who will communicate with you and for you, fight for you, and extremely professional, hire Joshua Hill.

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Our Battles Won

Results Matter. When your career, reputation, and freedom are on the line, you need an experienced law firm in your corner. With more than 75 years of combined legal experience, the attorneys at MJA know how to fight and win. Our results speak for themselves.


    Quantico, Virginia. Marine Corporal (E-4) Acquitted at Court-Martial of Wrongful Drug Use After Positive Urinalysis.

    Drug Use

  • "NOT GUILTY" Fort Cavazos, Texas

    Fort Hood, Texas. Army Private Second Class (E-2) Acquitted of Rape and Sexual Assault Charges After Week-Long Trial.

    Sexual Assault

  • "NOT GUILTY" Parris Island, South Carolina

    Parris Island, South Carolina. Marine Staff Sergeant (E-6) Acquitted at Court-Martial of Hazing, Blood Striping, and Pinning.


  • "NOT GUILTY" Kings Bay, Georgia

    Kings Bay, Georgia. Master-at-Arms Third Class (E-4) Acquitted by Jury of Dereliction of Duty Involving Firearm.


  • "NOT GUILTY" Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany

    Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. Senior Airman (E-4) Accused of Rape and Abusive Sexual Contact Acquitted by Military Judge.

    Sexual Assault

When Your Career Is On The Line

Our decentralized approach to military defense ensures that we can represent service members from any branch of the military, of any rank, at any military base or installation stateside or abroad.

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