It’s the holiday season again, the time of year when people franticly shop for gifts for friends and family. Although the coronavirus (COVID-19) will cause many of us to make most of our purchases on-line, many of us will still shop at brick & mortar department stores and malls. With frenetic shopping, it’s not uncommon for some innocent shoppers to be misidentified as shoplifters. Have YOU been arrested for shoplifting in New York?
A common scenario for misidentification is when someone picks up an item of clothing (perhaps a pair of pants) and attempts to go to another department of the store (perhaps on a different floor) for another item with the intention of paying for everything at the same time. Store security or even another shopper often interprets the person leaving one section with the item as an attempt to leave the store without paying. Store security then detains the person and calls the police.
Sometimes innocent shoppers are targeted by stores simply because of their race in what has come to be commonly known as shopping while black.
Obviously neither of these scenarios is shoplifting, but the arrest nonetheless occurs.
What Is Shoplifting?
We all know that shoplifting occurs when someone takes merchandise from a store without paying for it. In practice, shoplifting is a little more involved than that. The elements of shoplifting are met when:
A person wrongfully takes, obtains, or withholds the property of another person or entity, with the intent to deprive that person or entity of the property.
Thus, the prosecutor has to prove a number of things, including but not limited to:
- the property was wrongfully taken, obtained or withheld;
- the property belonged to the store; and
- the property as taken with the intent to deprive the store of its property.
Shoplifting in New York is considered larceny and is covered under New York Penal Law (PL) § 155.00. Depending on the value of the property involved, you will be either charged with:
- Petite Larceny – PL § 155.25 ($1,000.00 or less);
- Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree – PL § 155.30 ($1,000.00 – $3,000.00);
- Grand Larceny in the Third Degree PL § 155.35 ($3,000.00 – $5,000.00);
- Grand Larceny in the Second Degree PL § 155.40 ($50,000.00 – $1,000,000.00); and
- Grand Larceny in the First Degree PL § 155.42 ($1,000,000.00 and greater).
Penalties for Shoplifting
The penalties for a larceny charge range from up to one year in jail and a fine up to $1,000.00 for petite larceny and up to 25 years in prison and the greater of either a fine up to $5,000.00 or double the gain from the crime, for grand larceny in the first degree.
Additionally, merchants who are victims of shoplifters can also initiate a civil suit against you for the retail value of the merchandise. As steep as the penalties are, they don’t even begin to address the collateral damage to your life brought about by a criminal record.
Defenses to Shoplifting
Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, there may be several defenses that can be raised, including but not limited to:
- you didn’t leave or were not attempting to leave the store;
- lack of intent (i.e. mistake); and
- you actually owned the property (i.e. you were returning an item).
So, have you been arrested for shoplifting in New York and are wondering what to do?
What to Do If You Are Stopped and/or Arrested For Shoplifting
So what should you do if you are stopped and arrested for shoplifting? First and foremost, do not resist. Doing so usually results in the additional charge of resisting arrest. Secondly, you should remember that you have rights.
Fifth Amendment and Sixth Amendment Rights
The Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the United States Constitution provides every citizen and resident of the U.S. the right to remain silent and an attorney of their choosing in a criminal proceeding. In short, a person cannot be compelled to make a statement that could be self-incriminating without the presence of counsel.
Why Hire an Attorney?
As you have probably determined, navigating a shoplifting charge requires “know how”. The results of all criminal prosecutions are determined by the facts and circumstances of your specific case. A skilled defense attorney will analyze all the relevant issues including:
- who detained you;
- how long you were detained;
- the conditions in which you were detained;
- the admissibility of any alleged statements; and
- any and all store surveillance video leading up to you being detained.
Remember, you have rights and the district attorney still has the burden of proof in a criminal prosecution.
If you or someone you know has been arrested for shoplifting in New York call the Law Office of Kevin J. Deloatch, Esq. at (646) 792-2156. The results of all criminal prosecutions are determined by the facts and circumstances of your specific case and the skill and experience of your defense attorney. Call today for a free consultation.