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Distinguishing Between Petit Larceny and Grand Larceny in New York: NY PL Article 155 Crimes

In New York, general theft-related crimes are referred to as “larcenies.” A crime of larceny essentially boils down to an allegation that a person, the defendant in a criminal case, stole property. There are many different ways in which a person steals property under the Criminal Procedure Law and Penal Law, specifically under Penal Law 155.05, which defines “larceny.” What level of crime may be charged, such as a B Felony, D Felony, or A Misdemeanor, and whether a person may be charged with Grand Larceny or Petit Larceny, depends on many factors including the method by which the person allegedly stole property, the nature of the property that was stolen, and the total value of that property. The difference between being charged with a felony and a misdemeanor is huge, and it is critical that a person charged with a larceny in New York understands the implications of that distinction. A criminal lawyer with expertise in this area can be invaluable.

The most basic and straight-forward form of theft under the New York Penal Law is Petit Larceny, PL 155.25, which reads “a person is guilty of petit larceny when he steals property.” Simple enough. It doesn’t matter what kind of property is allegedly stolen, how much it’s worth, or how the theft is accomplished. Petit Larceny is a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, as well as the possibility of a fine, community service and/or two to three years of probation. Because this most basic form of theft is the highest class of misdemeanor, essentially any aggravating factor under the law will make such a theft a Grand Larceny of some degree, and therefore a felony, punishable by state prison time.

Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, PL 155.30, is the lowest level of larceny felony, an E felony – the lowest level felony in New York. Many different aggravating factors can elevate a simple Petit Larceny crime to Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree. This includes when the value of the property is greater than $1000, when the property consists of a credit card or debit card, if the property was taken from the person of another, such as a pickpocket situation, or if the property is a motor vehicle valued at more than $100. A conviction of Grand Larceny can mean a sentence of up to four years in state’s prison, although probation and other non-jail sentences are also a possibility. Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree can often accompany a charge of Robbery in the Third Degree. This is a strategic move for a District Attorney’s Office, because it is still a felony, but does not require the element of a forcible taking required by Robbery in the Third Degree, PL 160.05.

Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree also applies to more unusual allegations, such as a theft of public records, secret scientific material, when the theft is accomplished by extortion or blackmail, theft of firearms, and even religious items with a value of at least $100.

The higher Degrees of Grand Larceny essentially build on these aggravating factors, either combining certain factors, or elevating certain thresholds such as the value of the property. For example, Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, PL 155.35, applies where the property value exceeds $3,000. This is a class D Felony punishable for up to 7 years in state’s prison. Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, PL 155.40, requires that the property value exceed $50,000. This is a class C felony punishable for up to 15 years state’s prison. Lastly, Grand Larceny in the First Degree, PL 155.45 requires that the property value exceed $1,000,000. This is a class B felony punishable by up to 25 years in state’s prison. Other examples of aggravating factors for these higher level Grand Larceny charges includes property stolen from an ATM, which is encompassed by Grand Larceny in the Third Degree. Property stolen by extortion or blackmail, such as threats to cause future physical injury to another person, or abuse of power by a public servant constitutes Grand Larceny in the Second Degree.

Whether you are charged with Petit Larceny or Grand Larceny in the First Degree, having a criminal attorney who can advise you on the distinctions between these charges, and navigate the often murky waters of the basis for an elevated larceny charge, is essential.

Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense firm founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors. The New York criminal lawyers at Saland Law PC represent clients in Petit Larceny, Grand Larceny, and other theft-related cases throughout the New York City (Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Bronx), as well as Rockland and Westchester Counties and throughout the Hudson Valley region.

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