Petit Larceny

When shoplifting is prosecuted in New York State, it is usually written up as a violation of the statue for “Petit Larceny,” or “PL 155.25.” Petit Larceny is a misdemeanor in The State of New York and is punishable by up to one year in jail. In the event that the value of the goods that were stolen is over $1,000.00, charges of “Grand Larceny in the 4th Degree” can be seen in the place of petit larceny. Aside from the difference in names, the two big differences between petit larceny and grand larceny are: Grand larceny is a felony in New York State. Felonies have much more serious criminal penalties and potential for an adverse impact to someone’s career and criminal record.

Surprising as it may seem, most of the clients of The Blanch Law Firm who are charged with shoplifting, do not commit the crime because they were unable to purchase the items they are accused of stealing. Our clients come to us because they have made two errors in judgment and can’t afford to put themselves at the mercy of the courts. The first error they made was ignoring the voice in their head that told them not to take what they are accused of taking. The second error is that they thought nothing bad would happen to them if they got caught; they would only get a slap on the wrist. We all make errors in judgment; we have too much to drink at dinner, we cheat on our diets, we make white lies to our families to spare them the pain of confronting their shortcomings. Sometimes we get caught in these errors of judgment, sometimes we don’t. The difference is that having too much to drink at dinner can only come back to haunt you with a hangover the next day, getting caught shoplifting can haunt you with having a criminal record for the rest of your life.

Unlike drinking, where you are stuck with the hangover no matter what remedy you try to escape it, it is possible to escape the adverse effects that can result from charges of shoplifting. The best way to make sure that you do not let your momentary error in judgment haunt you for the rest of your life is by hiring a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights. The Criminal Defense Attorneys at The Blanch Law Firm have decades of experience protecting their clients from charges that stem from incidents of shoplifting. We have been able to secure non-jail disposition, where our clients have no criminal record on a staggering proportion of our cases.

Many times the police or security guards at a store will trick you into signing a confession by playing off your fears and telling you that everything is alright and that you can go home if you sign the confession. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While signing a confession may in that instance result in you getting to leave with a summons to come back to court at a later date, it is very often the case that defendants who do not sign confessions will also be released without having to post bail (unless they have a criminal record). If you have watched any crime drama on television you will notice that the episode usually ends once the criminal has signed a confession. In reality, there is much that a skilled criminal defense attorney can do to defend their client even after they have signed a confession.

In New York, larceny (NY PL 155.25) occurs when a person “wrongfully takes, obtains or withholds” property from its rightful owner, with the intent to deprive the owner of such property. This can also occur by using tricks or embezzlement, obtaining property under false pretenses, acquiring lost property, or taking property by extortion. New York classifies a theft or larceny crime according to the monetary value of the property involved.

The types of larceny that exists are the following:

  • Shoplifting: this is an offense that is usually prosecuted under petty larceny statutes. This can vary from state but in NY, it is a petit larceny charge. It can be upgraded based on the amount of the property taken.
  • Embezzlement: this is a crime that generally involves incidents where people take funds or property that they have access to because of their positions. In most cases, the schemes used to execute these crimes are more complex than simply seeing something and taking it.
  • Grand Larceny: Grand larceny is a petit larceny that exceeds $1,000. Grand Larceny can be in the 4th, 3rd, or 2nd degree. The penalties increase with each degree.

New York law classifies petit larceny as a class A misdemeanor. A sentence for conviction of a class A misdemeanor in New York may include imprisonment for a term not to exceed one year and a fine not to exceed $1,000. This can be pleaded down and in most cases jail time is not served for petit larceny.

Defending against a petit larceny charge is rather common and simple. Here are some of the defenses used:

  • Never Left The Store: Most cases of petit larceny is shoplifting and deals with store fronts. Many people who have been accused of petit larceny raise the issue of “leaving the store.” While the issue of “leaving the store” is relevant, it is not a requirement of the offense. The issue with this defense however deals with intent which is a necessary requirement. If one can prove that the intent was not to steal the item, the defense can be successful.
  • Arrested with someone else: Another common situation in petit larceny defense arises when more than one person is arrested for stealing the same items. Frequently, one person who is arrested will be found to have the items in question in his/her possession and the other person will not have any stolen property in his or her possession. This is usually comes from a pair of people working to steal items. The defense is that I was just accompanying them to the store and had no intention of stealing the item.

Federal larceny theft laws are not the same as larceny theft laws that pertain to the states. Although virtually all states recognize larceny theft, federal larceny theft laws are focused on the protection of public property from theft.

In 2013, Halfmoon New York town supervisor Mindy Wormuth was arraigned by federal authorities on a variety of counts, including grand larceny, in connection with allegedly receiving $7,500 in exchange for using her influence to support local legislation. She was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison and ordered to pay $11,000 in penalties.

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