Although theft may violate federal law in some cases (such as theft of federal property), individual states have the right and responsibility to write and enforce their own theft laws. State laws define the threshold between misdemeanor theft and felony theft convictions, and set the penalties accordingly.
In West Virginia, theft laws are defined in the West Virginia Code §61-3-13.
- Petit larceny
The dividing line between grand and petit larceny is $1,000. If a person steals goods or chattels that have a value below $1,000, the petit larceny conviction is a misdemeanor. Goods and chattels simply refer to all tangible personal property that a person may take from the owner. Real estate and property attached to real estate (such as a house) are obvious exceptions.
The penalties for this conviction are a maximum jail sentence of one year and/or fines of up to $2,500.
- Grand larceny
When the property stolen has a value of at least $1,000, the conviction becomes a felony, and the penalties may be much more serious. The minimum sentence is one year, and the maximum is 10 years, and the convicted person will likely spend this time in the penitentiary instead of the jail. However, the judge does have the discretion to order a jail sentence of one year or less. The fines for a grand larceny conviction are no more than $2,500.
- Identity theft
There is no objective way to put a value on the theft of a person’s identity. The National Conference of State Legislatures notes that in West Virginia, identity theft is a felony. A person who receives this conviction will receive a penitentiary sentence of up to five years, and the judge may order fines of up to $1,000 in addition or instead of the prison sentence.