Shoplifting and Larceny under New York Penal Law 155.25 or 155.30

Many New Yorkers are arrested each year for shoplifting.  Some people, particularly those without prior criminal records, will be issued a desk appearance ticket by the New York City Police Department.  Others will be taken to central booking, arraigned, and prosecuted for petit larceny under New York Penal Law section 155.25.

For those new to the system, this can be a stressful and worrisome process.  Arrestees have various concerns:

“When will I see the judge?”

“Will I be held in jail?”

“Will the judge set bail?”

“Who will represent me?”

“What am I being charged with?”

“What impact will this have on my record?”

“Will this affect my job?”

This post will attempt to answer some of these questions.  Of course, nothing in the post is designed to be legal advice, which should be immediately sought from a new york criminal defense attorney experienced in handling petit larceny cases in New York.

Initial Court Appearance and Bail

If you have been issued a desk appearance ticket, you will be released from the police station after receiving it.  The desk appearance ticket itself will contain your name, the arrest number, the top offense charged, the county in which you were arrested, the name and signature of the officer who arrested you, and the date, time, and location of your initial court appearance.

After consulting with a lawyer, you will then appear on the date on the desk appearance ticket to be arraigned.  There are various purposes of an arraignment proceeding: (i) to allow for the prosecution and court to formally inform you of the charges; (ii) for you and your lawyer to receive a misdemeanor complaint (a charging document); (iii) for the prosecution to provide you and your lawyer with notice of any statements or police-arranged identification procedures they employed that they intend to use against you; (iv) for the court to consider the question of bail; and v) for the prosecution to either make an offer of a lesser charge or to inform you and the court of what sentence they would recommend if they feel it is appropriate that you be prosecuted for the top charged offense, which, for the purposes of this post, would be petit larceny and perhaps criminal possession of stolen property.

If you have a prior criminal record or the police determine that it is appropriate for other reasons, you will not receive a desk appearance ticket, but instead will be “processed” through central booking station of the NYPD or other arresting agency and will see the judge within 24 hours of your arrest.

The arraignment proceeding for those “processed” defendants will be the same as for those who received desk appearance tickets, but will happen much more quickly.  In both cases, after you receive the charging documents and are informed of the petit larceny charges, you will be given an opportunity to plead guilty to the top charge or to a lesser charge, if the prosecutor deems it appropriate under the circumstances.

If there is no disposition, the government will be heard on the question of bail.  For most people without criminal histories, the prosecutor will usually recommend that you be released on your own recognizance, or “ROR’d.”  If there are circumstances that give the government reason to believe that you will not return to court, the prosecutor will ask for a set amount of bail.  The amount of bail will be determined by a variety of factors, including criminal history, bench warrant history, ties to the community, and your employment situation.

Whether or not bail has been set, if there is no disposition of your case, you will be given a new date to appear in a different court part to either continue to fight or resolve your case after plea bargaining.

The Petit Larceny Charge

Petit Larceny, under New York PL 155.25, is a very simply-defined crime: “A person is guilty of petit larceny when he steals property.”  Petit Larceny is a class A misdemeanor.  According to the statutory definitions, “A person steals property and commits larceny when, with intent to deprive another of property or to appropriate the same to himself or to a third person, he wrongfully takes, obtains or withholds such property from an owner thereof.”  An “owner” for purposes of the statute, is defined as follows: “When property is taken, obtained or withheld by one person from another person, an ‘owner’ thereof means any person who has a right to possession thereof superior to that of the taker, obtainer or withholder.”  Penal Law 155.00(5).  Simply put, although there is a lot of detail in the statute, if you are caught removing items from a store, and you walk past the registers and attempt to leave without paying, you will likely be charged with petit larceny.

The Grand Larceny Charge

It should be noted here, however, that oftentimes a person who thinks that they are committing a minor offense may wind up being charged with a felony.  Although there are several other factors which may result in elevation, in simple terms, New York changes the charge from a misdemeanor to a felony if the value of the property allegedly stolen exceeds $1000 (Grand larceny in the fourth degree under PL 155.30, a class E felony), $3000 (Grand larceny in the third degree under PL 155.35, a class D felony), $50,000 (Grand larceny in the second degree under PL 155.40, a class C felony), or $1,000,000 (Grand larceny in the first degree under PL 155.42, a class B felony).  The value figure that the statute uses is the “market value of the property at the time and place of the crime, or if such cannot be satisfactorily ascertained, the cost of replacement of the property within a reasonable time after the crime.”  PL 155.20(1).

Disposition and Collateral Consequences

District Attorneys in the five boroughs of New York City as well as greater New York and upstate have been known to give two non-criminal dispositions offers at arraignments or, after consultations with defense attorneys, at a subsequent court proceeding: (i) a disorderly conduct violation under Penal Law 240.20 or (ii) an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal under Criminal Procedure Law 170.55.

Whether and under what circumstances you would receive one of those two non criminal dispositions in a petit larceny case will depend upon a variety of variables, such as the individual prosecutor with whom you are dealing, your defense counsel, and the big picture scenario in your life that led up to the incident.

As far as collateral consequences are concerned, a disorderly conduct violation is not a crime and would be sealed by operation of law after the entry of the plea and the sentence.  An adjournment in contemplation of dismissal can eventually produce an even better result.  As long as you stay out of trouble for the period of time set forth by the judge and comply with any and all other conditions set forth by the court, the case is actually dismissed and the arrest and prosecution become a legal nullity.

Importantly, if you have been arrested for or charged with petit larceny, you should consult with experienced New York criminal defense attorneys before going to court.

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