Theft Crimes and Your Rights Under New York Law

Theft Crimes and Your Rights Under New York Law

Being accused of a theft crime in New York can be scary and confusing. You likely have a lot of questions about the legal process and your rights. This article provides an overview of common theft crimes in New York, potential penalties, and your legal rights if you are under investigation or facing charges.

Common Theft Crimes in New York

There are a variety of theft crimes under New York law, ranging from misdemeanors to felonies depending on the value of property stolen and other factors. Some of the most common theft charges include:

  • Petit Larceny: The theft of property valued at less than $1,000. This is a misdemeanor crime punishable by up to 1 year in jail.
  • Grand Larceny: The theft of property valued over $1,000. Grand larceny charges range from Class E to Class B felonies depending on the value stolen, with penalties ranging from 1-25 years in prison.
  • Robbery: Using force or threat of force to steal property from another person. Robbery is a felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison.
  • Burglary: Illegally entering a building with intent to commit a crime, usually theft. Punishable by up to 25 years in prison depending on circumstances.
  • Shoplifting / Retail Theft: Attempting to steal merchandise from a store. Can be charged as petit larceny or grand larceny depending on the value.
  • Identity Theft: Stealing personal information of another to obtain credit or benefits fraudulently. A felony with up to 7 years in prison.

Penalties tend to increase for repeat offenders. There may also be additional charges for related crimes like possession of stolen property or forgery.

Your Rights Under Investigation

If you are contacted by police or accused of a theft crime in New York, you have the following basic rights:Right to Remain Silent: You are never required to answer questions from police without an attorney. What you say can be used against you, so it is best to politely decline to answer questions.Right to an Attorney: You have the right to consult with an attorney and to have an attorney present during police questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you free of charge. Ask to speak to your attorney immediately.Freedom from Unreasonable Searches: Police generally need a warrant to search your home, car or possessions unless given consent. You can refuse consent for a search if officers do not have a warrant.Right to a Fair Trial: If formally charged, you have a right to mount a meaningful defense with adequate time and resources to prepare. The prosecution bears the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.Right Against Self-Incrimination: While you can choose to testify at trial, you cannot be compelled to testify against yourself or admit guilt. Your silence cannot be used as evidence of guilt.

Getting Legal Help

If you are contacted by police regarding a theft investigation or have been arrested for a theft crime, it is essential that you immediately retain experienced criminal defense counsel. An attorney can advise you on the law, protect your rights, guide you through the system, negotiate with prosecutors, and defend you in court if necessary.When choosing an attorney, look for someone with extensive experience handling theft cases in your jurisdiction. Understand fee structures and payment plans upfront. Public defender services are also available for those who cannot afford private counsel. Top-rated theft defense lawyers in New York include:

What Happens Next if Charged?

If formally charged with a theft crime in New York, you will be arraigned and will enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. The court will also consider bail, release conditions, and if you qualify for a public defender.Your attorney will analyze the prosecution’s case, explore defense strategies, file motions to suppress illegally obtained evidence, negotiate possible plea bargains with lesser sentences, and prepare for trial.Potential outcomes if convicted include fines, probation, restitution to victims, community service, imprisonment, or a combination. Much depends on the severity of charges and your criminal history.

Protect Your Rights

Being accused of theft can be extremely unsettling. Understand that you have legal rights throughout the process. Politely decline to answer police questions and immediately contact a seasoned criminal defense lawyer that can protect your interests. With an experienced attorney guiding your defense, you can get through this difficult situation and work toward the most favorable outcome possible.