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Must a Victim be Aware of Your Theft: NY PL 155.30(5) & Grand Larceny from the Person

While most people think Grand Larceny is always a White Collar crime, the laws of New York State do not always reflect that misconception. Yes, while New York White Collar criminal lawyers and Grand Larceny defense attorneys who represent clients in these offenses routinely do so in the context of an Embezzlement or Criminal Tax Fraud, a Grand Larceny arrest need not be White Collar. One Grand Larceny crime that stands out from the White Collar pack, is Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree pursuant to New York Penal Law 155.30(5). This specific subsection does not address the value of a theft or the nature of the property stolen, but codifies the felony of taking property from another’s person. Simply, if you take property from the person of another (the watch from their wrist, wallet in their pocket, cash in their hand or even bag over their shoulder), you are guilty of a crime that caries a sentence of up to four years in prison. Although it wouldn’t be a completely fair description as force is not an element of this crime, NY PL 155.30(5) can be described as Robbery “light.”

What is interesting about this particular subsection of Grand Larceny is how it not only is completely different than other sub crimes of PL 155.30, but the ease by which it is prosecuted. Did you get into a fight with your neighbor and take his mobile phone and run off or are you a pickpocket that New Yorkers are warned about during their daily commute in Gotham’s subterranean transit system? Arguably the first hypothetical doesn’t seem overly devious in comparison to the second. In the eyes of the law, however, there is no distinction.

Recently, a defendant, post-trial, tried to squirrel out of his conviction for Grand Larceny from the person, a/k/a, GL 155.30(5). In an interesting interpretation of the law (albeit a failed one), the defendant argued that if the victim did not know the defendant was removing property from the victim’s person, he was not guilty of this crime. The First Department, in kicking this theory and defense out the courtroom doors, recognized that whether a complainant knows he or she is a victim of a theft at the time of a taking is irrelevant. Although the Court did not state the following, if an employer was a victim of an Embezzlement for years and never learned about it until after the theft stopped and he or she was notified by a third party, would a Grand Larceny or other theft not have transpired? Obviously, the answer is a crime was committed.

Circling back to New York Penal Law 155.30(5), in People v. Mack, 2013 NY Slip Op 00036, the defendant had cut the sleeping victim’s pant pocket and removed his wallet (two lessons here…first, don’t pass out on the train and two, if one has that level of skill with a blade, one should be a surgeon). While the complainant did not wake, police observed the defendant’s conduct. Arguably, whether “a victim [is] able to feel something being taken may have some evidentiary significance in a case where there is an issue of whether the victim was in physical contact with the property,” this particular issue was moot due to the police witnesses. Ultimately what mattered was that the defendant took property from the person of the complainant irrespective of the victim noticing.

To read more about any type of New York Grand Larceny crime, Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, Embezzlement, Tax Crime or New York Penal Law 155.30(5), follow any of the highlighted links or review the abundant materials in the websites and blogs listed below.

Established by two former Manhattan Assistant District Attorneys who spend a combined thirteen years as prosecutors before starting the criminal defense practice, the New York criminal defense attorneys at Crotty Saland PC represent clients in all stages of criminal investigations, arrests and trials.

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