The gist of the crime of larceny both at common law and under statutes is a fraudulent taking of the personal property of another with an intent to appropriate it. One taking coupled with the necessary intent normally constitutes a single offense of larceny, and normally the courts limit their inquiry to whether there is such taking and intent; if the finding is in the affirmative the crime of larceny is established. Yet the courts tend to go beyond these limits of inquiry where the problem arises whether a single offense or several distinct offenses have been committed. Two types of situations present themselves: (1) where there is a single taking of several articles, at the same time, and the articles belong to different persons; (2) where there are several distinct takings each coupled with a criminal intent. In the first type of situation the courts tend to split the offense into as many different offenses as there are wronged owners. In the second type of situation there normally exist as many offenses as there are takings, since each of them involves the necessary subjective and objective elements of the crime. Yet early precedents are found where several takings at different times extending over a period of many years were combined by the courts to form a single offense. Thus a thief who committed acts that normally would amount to several petty larcenies (misdemeanors) could be convicted under certain circumstances of a single grand larceny (felony).

It is the purpose of this comment to explore the causes and development of this situation and to indicate the present state of the law.