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New York Petit Larceny

In New York larceny is a legal term for stealing. N.Y. Pen. Law § 155.05. There are two general 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 then you will be charged with petit larceny. N.Y. Pen. Law § 155.25. This is the charge that is most often applied to cases of shoplifting from retail stores. However, if the property has a value of more than $1,000, then the charge will be grand larceny. Because retail stores suffer significant financial losses from shoplifting, retail establishments are aggressively fighting shoplifting by using both theft prevention technology such as cameras, sensor tags and doorway checkpoints, as well as uniformed and undercover security guards to try to catch people suspected of stealing merchandise. In addition to the criminal charges that you may face if you are suspected of shoplifting, you also may face civil action. Under New York law the victim of theft can sue for five times the amount of the items stolen. Because of the potential criminal and civil liability that you may face, if you have been charged with petit larceny, shoplifting, or any other theft charge, it is important to speak with a New York Petit Larceny Lawyer from Stephen Bilkis & Associates, PLLC who will explain to you your legal rights and aggressively defend you throughout the criminal process.

To help stop shoplifting, retail stores often employ security guards to investigate suspected shoplifting cases. You may not always recognize the security guards as some will be in uniforms and others may not wear uniforms. If a security guard has reason to believe that you have shoplifted, the guard has the authority to stop you, detain you and investigate. However, security guards must act reasonably. Unfortunately, when retail store security guards suspect someone of shoplifting, they can get very aggressive. They employ tactics designed to scare you and coerce you to confess. One tactic is to detain you in a manner that is not reasonable. For example, a store may not detain you for an unreasonable length of time. You may be detained only long enough for the store to investigate the incident and for the police to arrive. The store may not, however, wait an unreasonably long time to contact the police and detain you in the meantime.

The store may not use excessive force in the process of detaining you. In appropriate cases handcuffs or other physical restraints may be used. The store can pat you down to determine if you are carrying a weapon. However, the store may not use excessive force such as using the handcuffs improperly or choke you. Excessive force can also include using racial slurs, threats or other types of foul language.

Another tactic used by stores is to ask you to sign a confession. The store security guard may tell you that you will not be permitted to leave the store until you sign the confession. The guard may even tell you that if you sign a confession, you will not be arrested. This is likely not true. Furthermore, while the retail staff is legally permitted to detain you until the police arrive, it cannot make you sign a confession. The store may also try to get you to sign a document stating that you will not return to the store or to the shopping center for a period of time, often years. Again, you are not legally required to sign such a document and you should not.

While you are being detained and the store is investigating the incident, the best course of action is to do or say little. You should not sign anything and you should not confess to anything. The store may even say that they have you on videotape. This may or may not be true. Regardless, you should still remain silent. While you are being detained by the store and its security personnel, you are not legally under arrest. However, what you say and what you sign can be used against you later should you be arrested and prosecuted.

Another common tactic used by store security is when there is more than one accused shoplifter involved security will separate the suspected shoplifters. Security will then tell you that one of the other suspected shoplifters confessed. Again, this may or may not be true. However, it is important for you to not confess to anything as it will be more difficult to defend you in court. Even when the police do arrive, you should still refrain from signing anything or admitting to anything. Instead, you should immediately request to speak with your lawyer who will then speak for you.

If you are accused of shoplifting there is a good chance that not only will you be charged with petit larceny, you may be charged with additional crimes. For example, you may be charged with criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree, a Class A misdemeanor. N.Y. Pen. Law § 165.40. Furthermore, if the value of the property that you are accused of stealing is over $1,000, you may be charged with both grand larceny in the fourth degree and criminal possession of stolen property in the fourth degree. Both of these crimes are felonies. N.Y. Pen. Law §§ 155.30, 165.45. In fact, the prosecutor will seek to make sure that you are charged with grand larceny and not petit larceny by placing the highest possible value on the merchandise that you are accused of stealing. However, New York law has specific rules as to how to value stolen property. Property must be valued at the market value of the property at the time and place of the theft, or the cost of replacement of the property within a reasonable time after the theft. N.Y. Pen. Law § 155.20.

Despite what the security guard thinks he or she saw, in some cases the security is wrong and charges of petit larceny are not warranted. For example, if you are accused of shoplifting the store may have misinterpreted your actions. It may have appeared that you put an item in your bag when you did not. It may have appeared as if you were going to walk out of the store without paying for merchandise when that was not your intent. If you never left the store with unpaid for merchandise, it is a reasonable conclusion that you did not steal anything or that you did not have the intention to steal anything. In some cases you may become a shoplifting suspect simply because the person you are with shoplifted. However, if you did not take or help take anything, then a shoplifting charge against you would not be warranted.

If you are accused of petit larceny you may be issued a Desk Appearance ticket (DAT). Whether you are issued a DAT or are taken into custody is at the discretion of the police officer. Typically DATs are issued if you are accused of a misdemeanor, but do not have a prior criminal record. When you receive a DAT, you are released and allowed to go home until you are arraigned. It is extremely important to attend your arraignment at the date and time specified on your ticket. If you do not appear the judge will issue a warrant for your arrest. At the arraignment you will be formally charged and will have the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty. A date will be set for your next hearing. It is important to note that your Desk Appearance Ticket will only be issued for one crime. However once you appear in court the prosecutor can charge you not only with petit larceny, but also with criminal possession of stolen property, as well as for additional crimes.

If you have been accused of petit larceny, shoplifting, grand larceny or any other theft crime, it is important to seek legal guidance right away. While shoplifting may seem like a minor offense, the consequences for this crime can be significant. The staff at Stephen Bilkis & Associates, PLLC has years of experience successfully defending clients in New York criminal courts who are accused of shoplifting and other types of theft. Contact us at 800.696.9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case.

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