Queens County Bar Association
Martindale Hubbell - Distinguished 2023

Anyone Can Face a Theft Charge

Interviewer: Is there a typical demographic when it comes to theft? I mean is it something that you see where there’s a typical kind of person or is it varied in people?

Martin Kane: No, it totally varies. I’ve been doing this for a long time and I could not possibly give you a demographic for the typical shoplifter. I can tell you that usually it is something that is done spontaneously; people don’t plan to do it — they don’t generally go into the store thinking that they’re going to steal something. More often there’s an opportunity and somehow the person, in the moment, just decides, ‘Well, I’m just not going to pay for this item’, and that is by far the most typical situation. And it can be young people, older people, just as many women as men — in fact probably more women than men in this particular crime. And it doesn’t break down by race or any other kind of ethnicity.

Do People Steal Because Of Compulsion Or Necessity?

Interviewer: What are some of the reasons that people steal? In your experience what are some of the reasons you’ve heard of – I mean is it always something that people want to do because it’s some sort of thrill or is it more of a crime of necessity, or is it compulsive?

Martin Kane: I think that there are basically two types of shoplifters. There are people out there who really do this for a living — they’re going in and, you know, they make their living or at least a part of their living by stealing from stores. We don’t see too much of that, particularly now because I think the stores have gotten much better at detecting this type of behavior, and they recognize the people — so we don’t see that too much. As I said most of the people are just normal people, something comes over them — I’m not a psychiatrist, so I couldn’t tell you what makes somebody do it – they are almost always people who tend to be law abiding.

Shoplifting Is Generally The Result Of A Momentary Temptation

Many of the people who come to me are deeply ashamed that they did something, and I just have to convince them that, you know, it’s a mistake that people make — probably everybody — at least once in their life, and probably a lot more have the temptation to take something. Maybe when you’re a kid you take a candy bar. Later on, some trinket. But I think everybody has, in themselves — been tempted to take something when they think nobody is looking. And that’s really what most shoplifting cases are all about — they’re generally nice people who just come to a momentary temptation, and my job is to make sure that it doesn’t impact them throughout their life.

Theft By Deception Is Obtaining Someone’s Money By Lying Or Deceiving Them Regarding The Purpose

Interviewer: What does theft by deception refer to?

Martin Kane: If you, for instance, tell somebody that, ‘If you send me a certain amount of money we’ve got a big inheritance coming in, and you’re going to make all of us money. But we need some starter money.’ That would be a theft by deception. A lot of the things that you see on the computer — the schemes that just seem too good to be true where you’re going to make a lot of money but you just have to send us a little seed money — that would be theft by deception. There are about as many different types of behavior like that as the human imagination can come up with. But basically it’s just getting somebody’s money by telling them a lie as to why you’re taking their money.

A Pyramid Scheme Is A Classic Example Of Theft By Deception

Interviewer: Would that be like if someone was involved with a pyramid sort of scheme — could they be charged with that?

Martin Kane: Oh sure. In other words, if they’re taking your money and they’re saying that this money is being invested in this or that investment, and the money is going into their pockets and part of it is being used to pay older people — a so called Ponzi scheme — that obviously would be a theft by deception.

In Order To Be Guilty Of A Crime You Should Have Intent To Commit The Crime

Interviewer: What if that individual works for someone and they’re not really knowledgeable about it? To them it seems like it’s a legit sales job, but they’re involved with it and they’re doing this inadvertently — could they still be charged with theft?

Martin Kane: Well, you can always be charged with something, but it’s really not any different than just about any other type of crime. In order to be guilty of a crime you have to have the intent to do the action, to commit the crime. Obviously if you’re an accountant who’s just bringing in the money and sending out the money, and if you have no idea about the illegal scheme, you’re not guilty. But that would be something that would be part of your defense. The police or the prosecutor — they are normally just going to assume that you intended the consequence of your act. And although that’s not what the law says — in reality you are going to be the one who has to prove that you never had intent to take anybody’s money, or to do something that was illegal.

Contact The Law Office of Martin D. Kane at (718) 793-5700 to find out more about what we can do for you.

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