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What Happens When You are Arrested for Shoplifting in New York City: From Arrest to Arraignment

There are plenty of questions a person asks him or herself when detained by store security after being accused of shoplifting a Whole Foods, Macys, Century 21, Bloomingdales or even the neighborhood bodega. What is the penalty for shoplifting in New York? Is Petit Larceny a felony? How likely is jail time for a PL 155.25 arrest? Simply, these inquiries can be summed up into one general question. That is, what happens when you are arrested for shoplifting and what is the process? The answer to this question depends on numerous factors often dictated by whether you are a first time offender and whether you are accused of felony shoplifting pursuant to the Grand Larceny statute or Criminal Possession of Stolen Property or your shoplifting arrest is of a misdemeanor variety. The following entry provides some context to New York shoplifting arrests that should provide the framework for further consultation with your shoplifting attorney.

The most common scenario involving misdemeanor shoplifting in New York occurs when you are accused of either leaving a store, walking past the cash registers or even being stopped while still inside the establishment after store security believes you are trying to conceal clothes, food or other property. Although not law enforcement, it is common that these security officers believe that they can “arrest” you. While they can lawfully apprehend a perceived shoplifter, it is not uncommon that these employees get unnecessarily “handsy.” Further, and anecdotally, upon your apprehension, store security officers can, and do, lie to you. They often tell their captors that if you admit that you were stealing they will let you go home without police involvement. But, as you likely now know, they call the NYPD or other police agency. Whether they say they are calling a manager or come out and tell you the police are coming, security officers then rifle through your pocket book, purse or backpack and “demand” that you sign a forfeiture letter allowing the business to fine you up to $500. Moreover, security will try to coerce you into signing a trespass notice or affidavit revoking your right to return. All of this occurs while your plea to make a phone call go ignored.

Ultimately, whether you are compliant or not, and for that matter whether you were in fact shoplifting or not, the police, who were already summoned despite representation by store staff, arrive and place you in handcuffs and under arrest. At this point, assuming the value of the property in question is no greater than $1,000.00 and you have a local address, you are fingerprinted, processed at the local precinct by the NYPD, and released with a NYC Desk Appearance Ticket or DAT within about two to five hours. Not a complaint, the DAT reflects a date to appear in court for your arraignment as well as other information. The most critical is the charged offense. Although only there is only room for one charge, the police will generally input PL 155.25 or PL 165.40. Both misdemeanors, PL 155.25 is Petit Larceny and PL 165.40 is Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fifth Degree. You should be aware that when you arraigned and appear before a judge with your legal counsel it is likely the criminal court complaint will reflect both crimes.

In the event you are accused of stealing in excess of $1,000.00 or $3,000.00, then in lieu of DAT it is likely that the NYPD will process you through Central Booking and charge you with Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree or Grand Larceny in the Third Degree respectively. These felony shoplifting crimes are far more serious and even though the law allows for a DAT for some class “E” felonies, it is routine that those arrested for felony crimes are held to see a judge for as long as 15-24 hours.

While there are countless moving parts to a shoplifting arrest and you may have not had the opportunity to explain your side of the allegation, remember that you have rights and your arrest is not de facto proof of guilt. Whether mitigating your conduct is the best defense to your shoplifting arrest or challenging the evidence and accuracy of the criminal charges is a better strategy, you and your attorney can make that determination and implement the appropriate response.

To learn more about New York shoplifting laws and crimes relating to theft, larceny and criminally possessing stolen property irrespective of its nature or value, review the links provided herein.

A criminal defense firm representing clients in shoplifting arrests – both felony and misdemeanor – in New York City and the Hudson Valley, both founding criminal lawyers served as prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office prior to establishing the law practice.

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