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.
On of the more common misunderstandings of New York shoplifting law (there is not actual statute such as this, but it is a clear means to describe similar offenses), is that an accused must leave a store to be arrested and ultimately convicted for Petit Larceny, Grand Larceny or Criminal Possession of Stolen Property. Irrespective of whether an offenses is a misdemeanor PL 155.25 or a felony PL 155.30, the evidence of the wrongful taking must be legally sufficient on a complaint and beyond a reasonable doubt at trial. While New York law is very clear that possession inconsistent with the rights of the property owner is a telling factor when determining if a shoplifting larceny occurred, the analysis is very fact specific and one which you and your criminal attorney or shoplifting lawyer must examine. That said, however, can a defendant successfully challenge an arrest in New York for Petit Larceny or Fifth Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property if a complaint fails to set forth facts that the accused walked past registers, checkout lines, etc., as part of his or her theft from a store? Will the failure by the prosecution to provide this information be fatal to the District Attorney’s case?
Maybe it was Sephora in Manhattan or Century 21 elsewhere in New York City. It actually makes no difference if its Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Whole Foods or some mom and pop store in Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, White Plains, Yonkers or any other municipality in New York. The standard, some would argue, is ridiculously low. Heck, you may have put the makeup, sweater or food in your own bag because it was convenient or the store didn’t supply a cart (if being environmentally friend and not using plastics is a crime, then guilty as charged!). On its face it seems like a reasonable thing to do. The reaction of store security, however, was quite the opposite. Reasonable? Not at all. Aggressive, accusatory, intimidating? Absolutely. Being embarrassed and signing paperwork, however, may be the least of your worries. If it is alleged that you stole property – regardless of what it may be worth (if anything!) – expect that you will at a minimum be arrested and issued a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT in NYC) for either Petit Larceny (PL 155.25) or Fifth Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property (PL 165.40). To make matters worse, while the DAT for shoplifting may only reflect one of these charges, upon appearing in court you will have the “honor” of facing both misdemeanor crimes.
With a little lay of the land and a scenario that may very well fit into what you were alleged to have done, the question you likely are asking is, “Why was I arrested and why was I charged with a crime for shoplifting if I didn’t step foot out of the supermarket (fill in the store here)?!” Well, read on for your answer…
There are very strict and unforgiving laws in New York State. The New York Penal law, when addressing financial crimes, has dollar amount thresholds that upon their breach the crime is enhanced. What this means is that if you steal by any means property valued in excess of $1,000 is an “E” felony of Fourth Degree Grand Larceny (New York Penal Law 155.30). If that amount exceeds $3,000 then it is a “D” felony of Third Degree Grand Larceny (New York Penal Law 155.35). The next thresholds are at $50,000 and $1 million. There are corresponding offenses for Criminal Possession of Stolen Property (again, it is value based for the most part barring some exceptions so the nature of the property is irrelevant). Not only is there a concern for an accused that he or she can face incarceration in prison – up to four years on an “E” felony and seven years on a “D” felony – there are other concerns for professionals and foreign nationals. Even without stepping foot in a jail, a conviction can end a career or make a person inadmissible in the future. Potentially, for the latter group of individuals, the offense could be an Aggravated Felony. Due to all of these collateral and direct concerns with felony arrests, it is imperative to formulate a plan when accused of these or any crime and your exposure is great. Unfortunately, a scenario played out for a Crotty Saland PC client who was both a physician and a foreign national.
Fraud arrests are embarrassing. Theft arrests are compromising. Larceny arrests are stigmatizing. Felony arrests in New York? Those can land you in prison. Misdemeanors? By Desk Appearance Ticket or full processing in Central Booking, there is potential for incarceration too. Whether it is a shoplifting arrest or DAT for violating the Petit Larceny statute of New York Penal Law 155.25 or Fifth Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property Statute of New York Penal Law 165.40, a fake identification arrest for violating the Third Degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument statute of New York Penal Law 170.20, a failure to pay a cab fare arrest for violating New York Penal Law 165.15, or any other crime involving Forgery, Falsifying Business Records, Theft of Services, Scheme to Defraud or Grand Larceny, if you are regulated through FINRA or FDIC, the ramifications can be a “game changer” to your career and livelihood. While you can potentially avoid reporting certain misdemeanor crimes on your Form U4, if you are charged with any felony (even if it is later reduced or resolved in a non-criminal manner) or convicted of the same, you will have to answer for your alleged actions. Even if the offense you are accused if is merely a misdemeanor (“merely” is a relative term as New York does not expunge criminal convictions for these crimes) and the offense involves fraud, forgery, wrongful taking of property or even false statements or omissions, you will be required to report the alleged infraction. This blog entry will not address the substance and definitions of the above crimes (that can be found throughout this blog and the CrottySaland.Com website), but reporting of these arrests and convictions on your U4 and consequences associated with FINRA regulations and those involving FDIC insured banks.
If there is such a “good” in crimes and prosecutions, arrests and accusations for shoplifting often result in the issuance of a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT) in lieu of a person being processed through Central Booking. The “bad,” however, is that shoplifting arrests for the crimes of Petit Larceny, New York Penal Law 155.25, and Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fifth Degree, New York Penal Law 165.40, are so routine that prosecutors, judges and even many inexperienced criminal defense attorneys do not blink an eye when examining an accusatory information to determine its viability and sufficiency. That is not to say these people are lazy by any means, but fatigue of seeing the same boilerplate language leads to poor results. Fortunately for one defendant, the examination of the complaint against her led to a judge dismissing the charges of Petit Larceny after the court determined there was no nexus between her actions and that of an unapprehended other individual who attempted to leave the store with stolen property. This blog entry will address the court’s decision and look at the overall value and importance of the ruling in the realm of arrests for PL 155.25 and PL 165.40.
Petit Larceny, New York Penal Law 155.25, is one of the most common theft crimes charged in New York, prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys, and defended by New York criminal lawyers. Like its sister offense of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fifth Degree, New York Penal Law 165.40, this misdemeanor “shoplifting” crime is one that prosecutors can very easily draft in an accusatory instrument (called a criminal court complaint or information). In fact, in New York City’s boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, there is fairly boilerplate language that is found in most complaints. Of grave concern to criminal defense attorneys, however, is whether or not the boilerplate language that is plugged into these complaints is legally sufficient and not conlusory (are there enough factual allegations and not mere conclusory statements). Whether an accused finds himself or herself before a judge during an arraignment by way of Desk Appearance Ticket (commonly called a DAT or Appearance Ticket) or after spending 24 hours in the infamous Tombs should the information be legally insufficient an attorney can file a motion for dismissal.
It certainly is not used in the everyday lingo of a non-lawyer and rarely used by those who are practicing attorneys, but asportation is a term that a New York criminal defense attorney or New York theft lawyer should be keenly aware of. More specifically, the importance of this term to a New York shoplifting defense attorney and an accused shoplifter cannot be understated. After all, if you are convicted of Petit Larceny (NY PL 155.25), this misdemeanor crime could land you in jail for up to one year whether the theft involved a $1 pack of gum or two pairs of Cole Haan shoes valued at $500.00 each. This blog entry will focus on asportation and its relevance to any shoplifting or related theft or larceny case in New York.
Its a common theme or perceived defense to shoplifting in New York City that routinely rears its head from those accused of shoplifting and attorneys not necessarily familiar with how to defend a shoplifting arrest. “I didn’t leave the store so how can I be guilty of a crime involving theft or stealing? How do the crimes of New York Penal Law 155.25 or New York Penal Law 165.40 apply to me?” Even more common than the question, the answer is always the same. Yes, an experienced shoplifting attorney and criminal lawyer knows that each case is fact or evidence specific, but you can be arrested and charged with the shoplifting crimes of PL 155.25 or PL 165.40 without taking a step outside the walls of the retail store where you were arrested.
A recent decision, and one I am confident your criminal attorney or New York shoplifting lawyer or should have read, that addresses this precise issue is People v. Bailey, 2013 NY Slip Op 51021 – NY: Appellate Term, 1st Dept. 2013. In Bailey, the defendant moved to dismiss a complaint (an information) for facial sufficiency because the defendant believed that the conduct described in that complaint did not satisfy the elements and establish the minimum criteria for violating the Petit Larceny and Fifth Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property statutes. There, the People drafted the accusatory instrument stating in substance that the defendant “removed six pairs of earrings from a display, ‘conceal[ed]’ them inside her jacket sleeve, and ‘walk[ed] past more than one open register and move[d] to another floor in the store in possession of the property and without paying for it.'”
Arrests for shoplifting in New York City are horrendous, but when that arrest is for shoplifting property valued more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), the accusation can become a game changer in terms of your future both inside and outside the courtroom. As noted and addressed in numerous blog entries, any New York arrest that involves a theft or larceny greater than $1,000 is a felony. In practical terms, this means that should you be convicted, you can lose not just your freedom to incarceration, but you can also lose your professional license to practice in your given field. Unfortunately for a client of Crotty Saland PC, this is the exact scenario our client faced after being charged with an “E” felony shoplift for allegedly stealing between $1,000 and $3,000 worth of clothing from a department store.
Not the first professional or graduate school educated client represented by the New York criminal defense attorneys at Crotty Saland PC for felony shoplifting and Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree (New York Penal Law 155.30), our criminal lawyers knew they had their work cut out. For professionals such as this particular client, it is not just that a felony would be an unacceptable resolution, a misdemeanor plea to Petit Larceny (New York Penal Law 155.25) or Fifth Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property (New York Penal Law 165.40) would be only nominally better. Although it took significant amount of time preparing “papers” as to why our client deserved the benefit of the doubt and explaining the incident beyond the four corners of the felony complaint, eventually the District Attorney’s Office agreed to give our client a “re-pleader.” In the world of criminal law, such a disposition provides an accused a means to avoid a criminal record if he or she follows certain criteria established in advance of a plea. Although not necessarily part of this particular deal, such conditions may include counseling, community service or a fine. After an agreed upon time frame, the accused is able to withdraw his or her plea and obtain a violation or even an ACD.