Every state in the United States has different criminal statutes that outline different crimes and penalties. Crimes can also be prosecuted on a federal level when an individual breaks federal laws. There are dozens of different theft crimes of different severities, and the nuance is slightly different at each state level. Some states have specific legal definitions of the term “shoplifting.” Other states don’t have any crimes that specifically refer to shoplifting, but have crimes that a shoplifter might be charged with instead.
Shoplifting is a term for a very specific context of theft. When a person shoplifts, they generally steal property from another individual, business, organization, or other entity. The person may take the property themselves, which is called larceny. If the person has property they know is stolen, the crime is criminally possessing stolen property. Shoplifting might occur when a person deprives another of their rightful property, removes property from a business without paying for it, or otherwise wrongfully takes property that does not belong to them. Even if the individual didn’t actually actively steal the property from the original owner, knowingly possessing stolen property is a form of shoplifting.
If you have been accused of any theft crimes related to shoplifting, you should talk to your theft attorney right away. Whether you’ve been arrested or simply questioned by authorities, it’s vital that you get the protection of legal counsel. Everything you say to law enforcement will be used to build a case against you, even if you don’t think it’s incriminating. Instead of talking to the police, tell them that you want your lawyer. Your lawyer can advise you on what information you should or should not impart to the law enforcement officials.
One of the most important aspects of a shoplifting crime is that it involves physical property rather than money. If you use a credit card that doesn’t belong to you or steal money from someone’s wallet, that’s still a theft crime. But it isn’t defined as shoplifting. On the other hand, if you remove food from a store or take clothing from a business without having purchased it, this is a form of shoplifting. Even if you haven’t removed the property from the premises of the store yet, it’s possible to get arrested for shoplifting while you’re still inside.
The circumstances can be complicated when an arrest occurs before an individual has left the store premises. Since they haven’t taken the items from the store yet, they haven’t technically committed a theft. However, they may have a reasonable amount of evidence indicating that they intended to commit a theft. For example, they might have stuffed merchandise into a zippered bag where it can’t be seen, or they might have changed into store clothes and taken the tags off like they intended to walk out wearing them.
Some individuals might use distraction or forgetfulness as an excuse. In fact, for some, this might be completely true. You might not have had any intention of shoplifting and have instead just been the victim of unfortunate implications. However, if you looked suspicious enough for the store owner to notify the police, there’s a good chance your excuse won’t be believed. If you are arrested before you’ve left the store, tell the arresting officer that you will not speak without your legal counsel present. Depending on the surrounding circumstances, your attorney may be able to get charges dropped due to a lack of evidence. Your NYC Shoplifting Lawyer will have a much easier time helping to get the charges dropped if you don’t say things that incriminate you to the police officer.
Stealing property is considered shoplifting. In the state of New York, where there is no specific shoplifting crime, you might be charged with a variety of more specific crimes at your arraignment. Some of the potential charges include:
Each of these crimes has different degrees and potential for consequences. Some of the crimes are classified as misdemeanors, while more serious actions can lead to a felony charge.
When a person is arrested for misdemeanor shoplifting in New York City, the prosecution often takes the form of Desk Appearance Tickets. These tickets are technically still arrests, but they have a certain amount of extra freedom. All the same, you will still receive an official charge of a crime and be fingerprinted for the criminal database.
A shoplifting crime is considered a misdemeanor when the value of the stolen items comes out to $1,000 or less. If you’re charged with stealing property that is worth more than $1,000 in total, the theft becomes a felony charge. The exact degree of felony depends on exactly how much the property was worth.
Shoplifting in New York is a crime prosecuted as larceny under state law. Individuals convicted of a larceny charge may face jail or prison time, fines, and civil penalties. Shoplifting may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony charge, depending on the value of the items taken without permission.
Larceny is one of the most common criminal charges heard in New York courts. Thousands of larceny cases make their way into the court system every year. Millions of dollars worth of property is illegally taken in New York every year. Although it may seem that taking items that do not belong to you is a solution when short on cash or otherwise unable to afford an item, the penalties that come with a conviction prove that it simply isn’t worth that risk.
What is Shoplifting?
Shoplifting in New York is an act committed when a person takes, withholds, or otherwise obtains property that belongs to another person. The person who takes or withholds the items does so with the intent to deprive the person of that property. The victim of a shoplifting crime may not realize the property has been taken from them immediately. Therefore, a person may be charged with larceny well after the actual crime is committed.
Property with a value of $1,000 or less is charged as petit larceny while shoplifting property with a value of over $1,000 is known as grand larceny. Shoplifting is charged according to NewYork Penal Law 155.25. The crime is then placed into a felony category based upon the value of the item.
Larceny charges are possible whether the items taken belong to another person or a store/market. Some people think that shoplifting charges are possible if items are taken from another person but this is inaccurate information. Any time items are taken that don’t belong to you, it may result in criminal larceny charges.
Penalties for Shoplifting
Apart from criminal penalties, individuals convicted of shoplifting charges may also face civil penalties that require them to repay the value of the stolen property to the victim. In almost every case of shoplifting, a judge does order repayment of the stolen property, known as restitution. A person may also be ordered to provide community services to the person or company from which they victimized.
A petit larceny charge is a Class A misdemeanor. Convicted parties may face a fine of up to $1,000 and one year in prison. Stolen property valued at $1,001 – $3000 is a Class E felony. Convicted parties may receive a prison sentence of 1 – 3 years and a $5,000 fine. Penalties for shoplifting increase as the value of the property increases.
Judges usually examine an individual’s prior criminal history when sentencing an individual convicted of shoplifting. Diversion programs are available for individuals convicted of shoplifting. Such diversion programs are often reserved for individuals without prior convictions for shoplifting or without lengthy criminal histories.
Is a Plea Bargain Possible?
With the help of a criminal defense attorney, a plea bargain is another possible outcome for a person who is convicted of shoplifting. Many criminal cases end with a plea bargain being negotiated between each side of the case. The plea bargain varies according to the circumstances of the case and prosecuting attorney. With the help of an attorney, a great plea bargain is usually attainable. However, never attempt to handle this task alone, since most of us lack the legal expertise necessary to handle such a task.
Talk to a Lawyer
Facing larceny charges is scary, whether it’s a misdemeanor or a felony charge. The simple task of appearing before a judge to answer the charge is scary and causes a lot of stress. Knowing that you may go to jail or prison only worsens the situation. In addition to the penalties described above, larceny convictions put your good name at risk. Finding a job may not be simple and you may find denials for rental apartments occur frequently.
Lawyers offer free consultations for people facing larceny charges. Speak to a lawyer during a consultation to learn the many benefits his legal expertise can bring to your case. Not only do lawyers eliminate some of the fear that you feel when a criminal charge is ahead, but they can also reduce the risks of being convicted and the penalties of a conviction.
In the big scheme of things regarding severe crimes, shoplifting falls far down on the list. However, that does not mean store security personnel, police officers, and prosecutors will not take this crime seriously and attempt to punish you to the fullest extent of the law. While shoplifters are responsible for millions of dollars in stolen merchandise that ultimately leads to consumers paying higher prices, this does not mean that all persons accused of shoplifting are guilty of the crime. In fact, today’s world actually makes it much easier to be accused of shoplifting when you actually never intended to do anything wrong. If you find yourself being charged with shoplifting but know you are innocent, do everything possible to hire an attorney who will fight for your legal rights as well as your reputation. Contrary to what many people believe, there are many viable defenses when charged with shoplifting.
In many of these situations where shoplifting is alleged to have occurred, an experienced attorney can discover it was in fact a cashier error that led to the incident taking place. Since many retailers fail to properly train their employees in all facets of their jobs, it is quite easy for a cashier to make a mistake, such as thinking they rang up an item when they did not. Along with this, more and more stores are now using self-checkouts, creating even more opportunities for errors to occur. By examining evidence, reviewing security footage, and interviewing employees, your attorney can often prove you were in no way guilty of shoplifting.
Even in situations where a cashier is fully capable of performing their job, an equipment error can sometimes make it appear as if a person is attempting to shoplift items. Due to today’s cash registers being highly computerized and relying on numerous types of software, there can be instances where the register or other technical components of the system may malfunction. As a result, neither the cashier nor you as the customer may be aware an item was not properly accounted for by the system. Therefore, once you walk out the front door with the item, security personnel are immediately pursuing you and charging you with shoplifting. If facing this dilemma, work with an attorney who can use expert witnesses to examine these systems and give detailed testimony as to what malfunctions transpired.
No Prior Criminal History
If you accidentally walk out of a store with an item that was not properly paid for at a register, this does not mean you will automatically be convicted of shoplifting. If you have no prior criminal history of shoplifting or any other offenses, your attorney can argue it makes no sense to assume you suddenly decided to embark on a life of crime. In many situations, it can be determined that the store itself was at fault, resulting in charges against you being dismissed.
Children Hiding Items
For parents who have children with them in a store, they know all too well how many times during the shopping trip their kids are grabbing at one item or another. While most of the time parents will catch this and put the item back on the shelf, there may be times when they are distracted just long enough for a child to hide an item inside their clothing or perhaps in their parent’s pocketbook. Should this happen, it will appear as if you are trying to shoplift. In addition, authorities may also try to allege you were using your children as part of your scheme, resulting in additional charges of child endangerment or threats of having your children taken away from you. If this happens, the situation can quickly escalate out of control, putting you and your children in a precarious legal position. Rather than let this happen, hire an attorney as quickly as possible to help with your defense. By doing so, you will likely be able to end a situation well before additional developments occur.
While not very common, there are some people who suffer from kleptomania, meaning they have a compulsion to steal items from homes and businesses. As more emphasis is now being placed on addressing problems of mental health within the criminal justice system, your attorney may be able to use this to your advantage. Should you be suffering from various stressful events in your life such as the death of a loved one, recent job loss, or other situation, your attorney can argue you shoplifted the item due to being under extreme mental duress. If you have no prior history of shoplifting or other crimes and have expert witnesses as well as family and friends who can testify on your behalf, chances are your attorney can get the charges reduced or dismissed.
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