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I Didn’t Even Leave the Store and was Arrested for Shoplifting: Petit Larceny and PL 155.25

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…

Asportation, or the taking, of property is central in a shoplifting arrest. From a factual perspective it could be very clear or not so much. Walking past the security sensors or out of the store? Remove the security tags? Make a run for it without paying? These scenarios are obvious. Do not be surprised if you are grabbed and arrested for PL 155.25 and or PL 165.40. As clear as these hypotheticals may be, what if you simply put the fish or pickles in a bag you brought? What about taking some clothes and draping them in your oversized purse? Obviously fact based in terms of conduct, legally it could be of little consequence.

In People v. Angelo Rodriguez, 2016 NY Slip Op 50291(U) First Dept. March 14, 2016, the defendant appealed his conviction of Petit Larceny for shoplifting at Macy’s in Manhattan. Because the plea was pre-trial, the question posed was whether or not the information (a complaint) legally established that there was reasonable cause to believe the defendant was guilty of PL 155.25. Not an elaborate or colorful decision, the Appellate Court found that the “asportation elements of the charged offense were satisfied by allegations that a loss prevention officer at a specified Macy’s department store observed defendant remove one pair of shoes and one pair of sneakers from a display and ‘place said items inside a shopping bag’ and ‘attempt to leave the store in possession of the property without paying for it.'” While I would have issues with the conclusory language of “attempt to leave the store” as that not specific enough to say whether the person walked passed the cash registers or out into the vestibule area, for example, the Court’s decision shows the latitude given to the police and prosecutors when charging defendants with these shoplifting crimes. Remember, however, that as concerning as this might be for someone who truly was not doing anything wrong, the standard in the pleading stage is much lower than at the trial stage. The latter not only provides an accused the opportunity to provide evidence and cross examine witnesses beyond the four corners of an accusatory instrument, but the DA’s Office must also meet a higher burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

While the law is more generous to law enforcement, facts are still important. Whether your actions fit into this definition is a case by case analysis, but one worth of discussion. Can an initial charge be sustained? If so, does it mean prosecutors will be able to prove the case against you beyond a reasonable doubt? Additionally, if you do want to resolve the case will you have any leverage to have the prosecution reduce the case to a non-criminal outcome? All good questions and ones to address with your criminal defense attorney or New York shoplifting defense lawyer.

Saland Law PC, a New York City based criminal defense firm representing clients in both felony and misdemeanor shoplifting and theft crimes, was founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors. Saland Law PC represents clients in criminal cases throughout the City of New York as well as many suburban counties.

To educate yourself on the types of larcenies, thefts, misdemeanors and felony crimes in New York that may or may not be prosecuted with Desk Appearance Tickets, please review the websites and blogs linked below.


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