New York Petit Larceny Security Guards

Petit larceny is the legal term for the crime of stealing when the value of the property is under $1,000. It is the charge most often applied in cases of shoplifting. Shoplifting cases are typically brought to the police by security guards at retail stores such as Macy's, Century 21, Sephora, Wal-Mart, JC Penney, Kohl's and Target. Security guards at retail stores are sometimes trained to employ questionable tactics that can lead to criminal charges that are not always warranted. If a security guard detained you as a suspected shoplifter, you should immediately contact an experienced New York Petit Larceny Security Guards Lawyer who understands how security guards treat those suspected of shoplifting and who will aggressively defend you against shoplifting charges.

The New York Penal Code defines two main types of larceny: petit larceny and grand larceny. If the property that you are accused of stealing has a value that is less than $1,000, the crime is called petit larceny. N.Y. Pen. Law § 155.25. Petit larceny is a misdemeanor. On the other hand, if the property has a value of more than $1,000, then the crime is grand larceny. N.Y. Pen. Law § 155.30. Grand larceny is a felony. In the case of shoplifting thefts from retailers, petit larceny is typically the charge. However, if the property stolen is valued over $1,000, you may face a felony grand larceny charge.

Retail stores have a number of different loss prevention methods aimed at stopping shoplifters. In addition to technology such as sensor tags, stores employ both uniformed and undercover security guards to stop suspected shoplifters. In many cases the security guards are poorly trained, or are trained in a manner that causes them to be overzealous.

If you are detained as a suspected shoplifter, the security guard may pressure you to quickly confess. They will do this by a employing a number of tactics including:

  • Telling you that you cannot leave until you sign a confession
  • Telling you that there is videotape showing you shoplifting
  • Telling you that your friend already confessed to shoplifting
  • Telling you that they will not call the police if you sign a confession

Regardless of what the security tells you, the best course of action is for you to refrain from verbally confessing or from signing a confession.

Security guards may also detain you in a manner that is unreasonable. If a security has reason to believe that you have shoplifted, the guard does have the authority to detain as long as it is done in a reasonable manner. However, security guards are often unreasonable. Tactics that are unreasonable include:

  • Detaining you for an unreasonably long time
  • Waiting an unreasonably long time before contacting the police
  • Using excessive force such as choking you
  • Verbally abusing you by using offensive language such as racial slurs or threats

While you should calmly cooperate with the security guards by doing such simple things as showing identification when asked and by submitting to a pat down so that the security guard an ascertain whether or not you have a weapon, you are not required to sign a confession or sign a document stating that you will never return to the store. Instead, a better course of action is to simply wait until the police arrive. If you are arrested, request to contact your attorney.

While at first shoplifting may not seem like such a big deal, in reality it is. If you are charged with petit larceny based on shoplifting, the prosecutor could decide to charge you with an additional crime such as criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree, a Class A misdemeanor. N.Y. Pen. Law § 165.40. And if the value of the property exceeds $1,000, you may be charged with both grand larceny in the fourth degree and criminal possession of stolen property in the fourth degree. N.Y. Pen. Law §§ 155.30, 165.45. With each additional charge, the likelihood of spending time in jail if convicted increases. Furthermore, the penalties for a shoplifting conviction does not stop at jail time or probation. You will be stuck with a criminal record that will impact your future. Furthermore, if you are convicted of shoplifting, you may be faced with a civil lawsuit that can result in your having to pay the retailer 5 times the value of the property stolen.

Because of the possible repercussions of a shoplifting conviction, if a retail security guard accuses you of shoplifting it is critical to take it seriously and immediately seek legal guidance. The staff at Stephen Bilkis & Associates, PLLC has years of experience successfully defending clients in New York criminal courts who are accused of shoplifting, petit larceny, grand larceny, as well as other types of crimes. Contact us at 1.800.NY.NY.LAW (1.800.696.9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case.

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