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Interesting Legal Wrinkles in New York Credit Card Fraud Defense: Examining “Property” & “Owner” in a NY Grand Larceny & Stolen Property Case

When one is arrested in New York for Grand Larceny of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, the property in question is often ascertainable in a quick and easy manner. After all, if you steal a car, a painting or money, the property “speaks for itself.” Equally clear, the owner of the property is usually obvious because a defendant is accused of stealing that property from a particular person or business. Often time the bigger issue that New York theft lawyers and larceny defense attorneys contend with is not whether the item stolen constitutes legal property or who the owner is, but whether or not the value of that property constitutes a misdemeanor, lower felony or a felony where prison is mandatory.

Before addressing the “legal wrinkles” in this blog entry’s title, let’s briefly define property. According to New York Penal Law 155.00(1), property is defined as money, personal or real property, evidence of debt or contract or any thing of value. Defined under New York Penal Law 155.00(5), an owner is a person who has a right of possession superior to the person who takes the property. It is important to note, however, a joint owner does not have superior rights to his or her fellow common owners.

In People v. Carandang, 2012 NY Slip Op 00733 (1st Dept.), the Appellate Division was asked to determine if the use of a credit card was a taking of property pursuant to NY PL 155.00(1). Further, the second issue was whether or not an authorized user was a joint owner and therefore, neither party had a superior right to the property. In Carandang, the defendant used the credit card of his employer to make unauthorized purchases.

Upon reviewing the case, the Appellate Division found that the use of a credit card was ultimately the obtaining of property. In substance, because credit card use causes an indebtedness to the bank or credit union that issued the card and the unlawful user of that credit card deprives the rightful owner of property valued in the amount of the indebtedness, credit card constitutes property. Additionally, despite the defendant’s contention that as an authorized user of a credit card he had equal rights as a joint owner, the Appellate Court disagreed. Instead, the evidence established that while the defendant was an authorized user, this was at that the discretion of the employer who possessed a greater right.

Carandang makes it clear that use of a credit card and the indebtedness it causes can constitute property in a Grand Larceny or Criminal Posession of Stolen Property felony. Whether an authorized user is a joint owner in the eyes of the law likely turns on the specific facts. If however, there is a party with a greater right, that party will be the legal owner. Because each of these elements are critical (both must be present) in order for the prosecution to prove Grand Larceny or Criminal Possession of Stolen Property beyond a reasonable doubt, should either of these definitions be at issue it is essential to have your criminal defense attorney pursue an appropriate defense.

To educate yourself about the elements, definitions and cases that make up New York’s theft and larceny crimes, follow the highlighted links found above or below. The numerous resources created by Saland Law PC are tremendous tools in fighting any allegation in a New York Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, Grand Larceny or Petit Larceny arrest.

Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense firm established by two former Manhattan Assistant District Attorneys. The New York criminal defense attorneys at Saland Law PC represent clients investigated, arrested and indicted for theft and larceny crimes throughout the region.

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