Published on:

Intent to Deprive vs. Intent to Possess: Is Possession a Necessary Element of Petit or Grand Larceny

Most value based theft crimes share the same elements as one another outside of the necessity that the property in question reach a certain amount to raise the level of the offense. For example, Petit Larceny involves property valued at $1,000 or less while First Degree Grand Larceny requires that the property stolen be worth more than $1,000,000. Putting aside Grand Larceny crimes in New York that are item or object specific, stealing a credit card for example is automatically a felony of Fourth Degree Grand Larceny, the underlying elements are generally the same. You can look to NY PL 155.25, NY PL 155.30, NY PL 155.35 or an of the larceny crimes of the New York Penal Law and the common elemental bond is that you are guilty of larceny when you steal property. Taking this analysis one step further,  Penal Law 155.05(1) mandates that “[a] person steals property and commits larceny when, with intent to deprive another of property or to appropriate the same to himself or to a third person, he wrongfully takes, obtains or withholds such property from an owner thereof.”

With these definitions in hand, the question presented by this particular blog is whether or not merely depriving someone of their property is sufficient to constitute a crime of larceny – Petit or Grand. Further, must the taking be permanent, for a long frame time or some other lesser period?

In People v. Woodward, 2016 NY Slip Op 50085 (NY Crim. Court 2016), among other charges the defendant was accused of removing a gold chain from the complainant during a fight. As reflected in People v. Shurn, 69 AD2d 64 (2nd Dept. 1979), it is required that the prosecution, aka, the District Attorney, confirm the following: The complainant was the owner of the property or rightfully possessed the property (such as a custodian), the defendant took the property without the consent of the owner, and the defendant did so with the intent to deprive the owner of the property or to appropriate the property to the defendant or another person.

In pertinent part, the Woodward decision reaffirmed what is known by most, if not all, experienced and knowledgeable New York criminal defense attorneys. The Court stated as follows:

“The mere act of removing personal property from the owner’s person is sufficient to allow a reasonable inference that a defendant acted with larcenous intent (People v Smith, 140 AD2d 259 [1st Dept 1988] [removal of a cosmetic bag from a shoulder bag on victim’s person]). It is insignificant that there are no allegations regarding Defendant’s prolonged possession of the chain after removing it from Complainant’s neck. The intent to deprive, and not the intent to possess, is necessary to support the charge of Petit Larceny (See In re Nehial W., 232 AD2d 152 [1st Dept 1996]). Additionally, it can be inferred that Defendant’s alleged assault on Complainant was committed to effectuate a taking of Complainant’s chain, thus evincing an intent to deprive Complainant of her property.”

The implication, or better stated, the application, of this case and those before it are clear. When you speak with your criminal lawyer to better understand the charge of Petit Larceny or any Grand Larceny predicated on a wrongful taking, you need not have the intent to permanently deprive another person. It is the deprivation, as opposed to the possessing, that is critical to these theft cases. Thinking out loud, one could steal a beautiful Rolex not to keep for his or herself when it was removed from the wrist of a victim, but to potentially break, damage or even hide. The crime is no less a crime merely because you as the accused did not have the intent to possess the item in perpetuity.

To better understand the elements of any New York Petit Larceny or New York Grand Larceny crime, consult with your own criminal lawyer and feel free to use the materials on this blog and the sites below to assist you.

Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense law firm dedicated to represent clients accused of larceny and stolen property offenses as well as allegedly fraudulent schemes throughout the New York City and suburban region. Saland Law PC was founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors.


Contact Information