Being arrested for a crime is always scary, even if the crime is something as minor as shoplifting. There are several reasons you might be arrested for shoplifting, many of them completely innocent. Maybe you are wrongfully accused. Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe you had no other choice. Whatever the reason, a criminal charge is not something to take lightly. Criminal charges can stick on your record and negatively impact your future. As the stakes are high, you should always consult with a criminal defense attorney.
Heiferman & Associates, PLLC is a premier criminal defense firm serving clients in the greater New York City area. We have a proven track record of defending our clients against a wide range of criminal offenses. If you have been charged with shoplifting, we will work tirelessly to protect your rights.
Larceny and the Value of Property Stolen
The legal name for shoplifting is larceny. Larceny is taking or obtaining property with the intent to deprive another of that property. The degree of crime and punishment depends on the value of the property taken.
- Petit or petty larceny occurs when a person steals property valued at less than $1,000. Petit larceny is a class A misdemeanor. Sentences for a class A misdemeanor are sentences of 15 days or more but less than 1 year.
- Grand larceny in the fourth degree occurs when a person steals property valued over $1,000. Grand larceny in the fourth degree is a class E felony. Sentences for class E felonies may not exceed 4 years.
- Grand larceny in the third degree occurs when a person steals property valued over $3,000. Grand larceny in the third degree is a class D felony. Sentences for class D felonies may not exceed 7 years.
- Grand larceny in the second degree occurs when a person steals property valued over $50,000. Grand larceny in the second degree is a class C felony. Sentences for class C felonies may not exceed 15 years.
- Grand larceny in the first degree occurs when a person steals property valued over $1,000,000. Grand larceny in the first degree is a class B felony. Sentences for class B felonies may not exceed 25 years.
Common Defenses Used Against Shoplifting
In any criminal case, where a defendant argues a defense, the prosecutor has the burden of disproving such a defense beyond a reasonable doubt. While shoplifting cases often involve video or eye-witness evidence, several defenses may work in your favor.
After October 1, 2019, a person under the age of 18 is not generally criminally responsible for his or her conduct. Several exceptions apply. For instance, a person that is at least 17 years old on October 1, 2019, is criminally responsible for acts classified as a felony, misdemeanor charges accompanying a felony charge, or misdemeanors resulting from the reduction of a felony charge. However, if a person was a minor on the date the alleged crime was committed, an attorney may be able to argue the person is not criminally responsible because of his or her age.
Lack of intent
Intent is a key element to the crime of larceny. In order for a jury or court to find a person liable for larceny, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the person intended to deprive another of property. Depending on the case, the factual circumstances of each case may be on your side. For instance, if a person stepped out of a store with an item momentarily but intended to return immediately to pay for the item, the person lacked the intent to deprive. A skilled attorney can identify and argue important facts such as forgetting the item was in the person’s possession or simply forgetting to pay to defeat the element of intent.
Shoplifting or larceny cases often rely on unreliable evidence such as poor quality video footage or mistaken eye-witness testimony. Black and white surveillance video is often grainy or taken from an angle that does not capture the entire event, making it subject to technical scrutiny that could help your case. Additionally, witnesses often make incorrect identifications, are biased, or outright lie. If the police or prosecution offer any of this evidence against you it should always be closely scrutinized and viewed from a critical lens. A trusted attorney can help to assess what is unreliable or faulty evidence.
Possession of Stolen Property
A charge of larceny isn’t the only charge that could result from shoplifting. If the property is still in your possession, then you could also be charged with possession of stolen property. You can be convicted of possession of stolen property even if larceny charges against you are dropped or you were found to be innocent of larceny. In New York, punishment for possession of stolen property varies from a misdemeanor to a felony depending on the value of the stolen property. A knowledgeable lawyer can assess the facts of your case and help you prepare for any additional possession of stolen property charges.
When to Seek Legal Advice
You should seek legal advice as soon as possible after being arrested and anytime you are formally questioned by the police. The information you provide the police in the early stages can set the tone for the defenses you claim and it is important to have a trained legal advisor to represent you when questioned by the police. However, even if you have already been questioned, it is never too late for sound legal advice.
Contact Our Queens Shoplifting Defense Lawyer
If you are charged with criminal shoplifting, either as a misdemeanor or a felony, Heiferman & Associates can give you a better chance of maintaining a conviction-free record. If you have never dealt with the criminal justice system before or even if you have some experience, we will guide you through the process, letting you know what to expect at each stage. Beyond that, we will fight tirelessly for your rights, with the goal of winning an acquittal or reducing the charges as much as possible. At all times, our knowledge of the law and procedures will be in your corner. Contact us today for a consultation.