Theft and larceny related arrests in New York involve crimes that not only have immediate impacts in terms of incarceration and criminal charges, but have the collateral consequence that complicate careers and jobs. For example, if you are an employee of New York City, your arrest whether by Desk Appearance Ticket or due to a felony allegation, will trigger a formal action on the part of the administration. What is of critical importance, and something that your criminal lawyer should stress to you, the ultimate outcome of your case. Yes, an arrest is bad, but a felony or misdemeanor conviction is worse. Far worse. Fortunately for a client of Crotty Saland PC, an arrest for Fourth Degree Grand Larceny, New York Penal Law 155.30, resulted in a non criminal violation of Disorderly Conduct. Checking off the box of avoiding a criminal conviction, our client’s shoplifting arrest from Century 21 involving just shy of $2,000.00 in clothing will ultimately be sealed without any public record.
Possessing stolen property in New York is a crime. Its likely surprising to no one – from your second cousin to your criminal defense attorney – that in addition to the theft of property, Petit Larceny or Grand Larceny, when you knowingly possess stolen property you have committed either a misdemeanor or a felony. Without breaking out each and every subsection of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property where certain types of property equate to specific felony crimes, the routine way the NYPD, local or county police, and the District Attorney determine the applicable degree of a Criminal Possession of Stolen Property arrest charge is value based. That means if it the property, no matter what it may be, is less than $1,000.00 it is a misdemeanor and if the value is greater than $1,000.00, $3,000.00, $50,000.00 or $1 million, then the crime is a felony that escalates from an “E” to a “B” respectively.
Well, the above is all great and good, but what if the property you are arrested for possessing was not stolen in the first place? Does it make a difference if you believed it was stolen even though it was not? What about if in fact it was stolen property, but you believed it was not? Why is this worthy of discussion? Because as you can consult with your criminal defense lawyer, should you be charged with any degree – misdemeanor or felony – of Criminal Possession of Stolen property – PL 165.40, PL 165.45, PL 165.50, PL 165.52 or PL 165.54 – and you are either unaware the property was stolen or it in fact was not stolen, then you have a defense to this set of crimes.
Depending how aggressive or creative a District Attorney gets, sometimes what is one simple act becomes multiple criminal charges from the onset of an arrest or at some point during the prosecution. While the law allows an Assistant District Attorney in New York to supersede an information (criminal complaint) or present criminal charges to a Grand Jury that were not initially on a felony complaint, when such actions are taken a criminal defense lawyer must be on his or her respective “game.” Why? Some charges may be obvious on their faces but others not so much. Complicating matters, what may seem like a simply case with limited exposure can ultimately involve a crime with potentially significant consequences. People v. Gavrilov, 2015 Slip Op. 51562 (App. Term 2nd Dept. 2015) is such a case where the conduct and the charged crimes did not exactly coalesce. There, the defendant entered a vehicle and stole some property. Charged with Petit Larceny, New York Penal Law 155.25, and Fifth Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, New York Penal Law 165.40, the defendant also found himself facing Third Degree Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle, New York Penal Law 165.05. Although not a more serious offense, a very interesting question was raised. Did prosecutors overreach by charging the defendant with PL 165.05 or does wrongfully entering and stealing from a vehicle also violate the Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle statute?
“Value.” Say it with me. “Value.” Heck, scream it from the trees or the jury box. “Value!” Sing it from the judge’s chair or the prosecutor’s office. Whether in the Grand Jury or Trial Jury, value is often the most critical if not central element of any Grand Larceny arrest in New York. Sure, there has to be an unlawful taking or stealing (don’t forget to challenge that along with your arrest), but stepping away from the foundation of any larceny or theft arrest, barring the property stolen satisfying a specifically identified object or type of thing, a credit card for example, value is king (or queen). Don’t take my word for it. I’ve only practiced criminal law as a New York criminal defense attorney and both a former Manhattan Assistant District Attorney and Westchester County Town Prosecutor for more than sixteen years. Heck, what do I know…
Most people rightfully think a larceny or theft occurs when they wrongfully and without permission steal or take someone’s property. Usually, but not always, that person refuses to return the property or simply doesn’t tell the victim that he or she took it in the first place. Simply, the rightful owner lost his or her television, mobile phone, car, or good old fashion cash forever. However, in New York, a theft or larceny need not be a permanent taking. In fact, it need not be a taking at all in the common way we think about such acts. According to the New York Penal Law and the plethora of cases that analyze and interpret it (please note the shout out to the “Three Amigos”), a police officer can arrest, District Attorney prosecute and judge or jury convict you of a crime if you fail to return property. How you ask? New York Penal Law 155.05(2)(b) specifically addresses how one can be charged with a Petit Larceny or Grand Larceny Crime in New York when one acquires lost property.
In the State of New York from Manhattan to Buffalo, Brooklyn to Syracuse and Queens to White Plains, the New York Penal Law reigns supreme. While each Judicial Department (there are four) may interpret the law differently, when the Court of Appeals rules, its decision must be followed by all prosecutors, criminal lawyers and judges throughout the Empire State. Regardless of whether you are arrested in New York City or Yonkers, if you are accused of a Grand Larceny or Petit Larceny the law mandates that it occur through one of the statutorily recognized means outlined in New York Penal Law 155.05(2)(a). Charged with PL 155.25, PL 155.30, PL 155.35 or faced with any other arrest for any larceny crime or degree, the wrongful taking must occur by common law larceny by trespassory taking, common law larceny by trick, embezzlement, or obtaining property by false pretenses.
Sometimes in a New York Grand Larceny and Criminal Possession of Stolen Property arrest or trial, a criminal defense attorney challenges the value placed on property that his or her client allegedly stole. For obvious reasons, this is done to potentially reduced the degree and severity of the charged crime and to limit exposure to restitution if and when there is a conviction. This defense may be part of or distinct from an overall plan of attacking the prosecutor’s case, but one step in a defense that should not be ignored. Because of the critical importance value has to any theft, larceny or stolen property arrest, indictment or trial, I have dedicated many blog entries to this subject. This particular entry will examine how the District Attorney can present evidence to a jury as to value without an “expert”. In other words, for example, does law enforcement need the antique car dealer to testify that the vehicle in question is valued at $50,000.01 to elevate the crime from a Third Degree Grand Larceny to a Second Degree Grand Larceny? Is there another means by which evidence can establish this value and therefore the crime of PL 155.40 as opposed to PL 155.35? If so, what are those means?
No, there is not a crime of cell phone theft, iPhone stealing or smart phone heist in the New York Penal Law. However, merely because there is no specific statute addressing cell phones, mobile phones, smart phones and other personal devices such as iPads does not mean there is no crime or crimes that occur when one is stolen. On a base level, whenever you steal anything – from a pen or shoelace to a million dollars in cash or a diamond engagement ring – a larceny has occurred. Irrespective of value, the theft is a Petit Larceny and the possession of the property is Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fifth Degree as set forth in New York Penal Law 155.25 and New York Penal Law 165.40 respectively. These offenses are both class “A” misdemeanors.
Putting behind the misdemeanor crimes the NYPD will arrest you for and a District Attorney will prosecute, the following entry will briefly examine some crimes for cell phone theft routinely seen by New York criminal lawyers and defense attorneys throughout New York City District Attorney’s Offices in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx as well as other prosecutors’ offices elsewhere in suburban counties such as Westchester, Rockland, Putnam and Dutchess.
On television, the internet, radio and print media, it is far from atypical to hear of a dispute between parties – often time famous or affluent people – whereby one side shuts his or her mouth and the other provides an undisclosed sum of monies. Sounds reasonable enough, right? Heck, if they do that in Hollywood and in the corporate realm, why cant you demand compensation for your silence? You pay me and I promise not to expose any bad thing about you. Taking this belief a step further or at least in another direction, can you advise an employer that if he or she does not provide you some form of property, usually a sum of money, you are going to expose them as frauds? Is this whistle blowing? What if there is or was no fraud? Now does it become Blackmail or Extortion? It would be great if this blog would answer any of the scenarios above, or, for that matter, the question that likely caused you to land on the CrottySaland.Com or NewYorkCriminalLawyerBlog.Com websites, but it does not. Each case is different as are all sets of facts. What doesn’t change, however, is the magnitude of criminal exposure you can face in New York if the path you choose to follow is one of Extortion or Blackmail even if you believed you had some legal and civil right to demand money, property or compensation in return for not exposing an employer, colleague, partner, friend, fling, flame, or subordinate (you get the point).
Most value based theft crimes share the same elements as one another outside of the necessity that the property in question reach a certain amount to raise the level of the offense. For example, Petit Larceny involves property valued at $1,000 or less while First Degree Grand Larceny requires that the property stolen be worth more than $1,000,000. Putting aside Grand Larceny crimes in New York that are item or object specific, stealing a credit card for example is automatically a felony of Fourth Degree Grand Larceny, the underlying elements are generally the same. You can look to NY PL 155.25, NY PL 155.30, NY PL 155.35 or an of the larceny crimes of the New York Penal Law and the common elemental bond is that you are guilty of larceny when you steal property. Taking this analysis one step further, Penal Law 155.05(1) mandates that “[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.”
With these definitions in hand, the question presented by this particular blog is whether or not merely depriving someone of their property is sufficient to constitute a crime of larceny – Petit or Grand. Further, must the taking be permanent, for a long frame time or some other lesser period?