Larceny crimes are fairly straight forward in New York State much like any other jurisdiction. If you steal property, irrespective of its value, and your intention is to keep it for yourself or from the rightful owner or possessor, you have committed either a Petit Larceny or a Grand Larceny as set forth in Article 155 of the New York Penal Law. Similarly, if you possess that property, knowing it is stolen and with the same intent to take it or prevent the rightful custodian from getting it back, then you are guilty of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property pursuant to Article 165 of the New York Penal Law.
The question or issues posed in this blog entry is how far you must go in your theft or possession of stolen property for a judge or jury to find you guilty of the same. In other words, what steps must you take or how far must you go to violate the law as either an attempted offense or a completed crime?
To start this conversation off, a completed crime mandates that the prosecution prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed every element of the crime. One need not be a criminal lawyer nor defense attorney in New York to understand that concept. Law and Order drilled that in our collective heads for decades. More interesting, however, is how far along the criminal path must you go to reach the point of no turning back, aka, an attempted offense? Before getting into any legal jargon, two recent legal decisions shed a light on this answer.
In People v. Garris, 2017 NY Slip Op. 51587(U) (1st Dept. November 27, 2017), the defendant placed his hand in a pocket book of the complainant and began to remove her wallet. Unsuccessful in securing it, the defendant began to trip and let go of the complainant’s property. Similarly, but a different scenario, in People v. Joseph, 2017 NY Slip Op. 27401 (2nd Dept. November 30, 2017), the defendant opened up a bank account to deposit a fraudulent check. Although there were issues as to the nature of the forgery and who the rightful maker of the check was, the defendant nonetheless received this clearly bad check and opened up the account for the purpose of deposit even though the monies ever cleared. In both cases, the courts found that the defendants were not guilty of the completed crime of Grand Larceny or Petit Larceny, but an attempt to commit the same.
In substance, the law is fairly clear even if the application of the law is dependent on the set of facts or evidence in each and every case. In fact, “[i]n order to constitute an attempt, the defendant’s conduct must have passed the stage of mere intent or mere preparation to commit a crime. In other words, the defendant must have engaged in conduct that came dangerously near commission of the completed crime.” People v. Nazadzay, 11 NY3d 460, 466 (2008).
The above analysis should make it overwhelmingly clear as to the legal standard for attempted Petit Larceny, Grand Larceny and Criminal Possession of Stolen Property crimes. Yes, your criminal defense lawyer must apply the case law to the evidence presented against you, but the benefit to successfully arguing your crime was either an attempt or not a completed offense (or no attempt at all) can make the difference between reduced criminal exposure or no criminal liability.
To better understand New York’s theft and larceny crimes and the numerous New York Penal Law offenses that constitute them, examine this blog, the NewYorkCriminalLawyer-Blog.Com and the links and websites listed above and below.
Crotty Saland PC is a New York criminal defense firm representing clients in all larceny related crimes in New York City, the Hudson Valley and throughout New York State. Both founding criminal defense lawyers served as prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.