Queens County Bar Association
Martindale Hubbell - Distinguished 2023

An Overview of Theft Charges in the State of New York

Interviewer: What are the different types of theft charges? I guess from the more minimal to the more severe, or maximum.

Martin Kane: In New York there are several types of theft. Primarily they’re grouped by the value of the property, but there are other considerations as well. The lowest is what is called petit larceny. Petit larceny is theft of any property having a value up to a $1,000. Once you get above $1,000, it becomes a felony.

Petit Larceny Is A Misdemeanor Charge Whereas Grand Larceny Is A Felony, Which Is Construed As A Serious Crime

Petit larceny is a misdemeanor charge, which is a less serious crime. But grand larceny is a felony, and they get more and more serious depending on the value. For instance, grand larceny in the fourth degree — which is a Class E felony — is stealing property up to or above $1,000. Grand larceny in the third degree is a D felony, which is more serious, and that’s where the value of the property is more than $3,000. Then you’ve got a big jump up to $50,000; if the property stolen is more than $50,000, you have what is called a C felony — which, by the way, has a jail sentence that can be as high as 15 years for a first offender, or seven and one-half to 15 years for a second offender. So now you’re getting into really serious charges and the highest is grand larceny in the first — which is a B felony — if the value is more than $1 million, and that is a maximum sentence of up to 25 years.

Cases Of Extortion And Theft Of Services Are Also Larceny-Type Cases, And They Vary In Penalties Depending On The Amount Involved

So theft alone can be a serious charge. There are also other types of larcenies that have their own evaluations; for instance, you have extortion, which is among the larceny charges, and that again depending on value and other circumstances will always be felony, and sometimes a very serious felony. That’s basically it. There are other types of larcenies or theft, such as theft of services, which generally is stealing of services of a taxi cab, or cable TV, or phone service. Those are all larceny-type cases and they vary in penalties, again depending on the amounts involved. Then you have computer theft, which is a whole other category with entirely different criteria — it’s probably too complex to go into here because computer theft is a whole other area.

Shoplifting Is The Most Common Type Of Theft Prevalent In New York

Interviewer: In regard to shoplifting, what have you seen people shoplift? What kind of stores and what kind of items? What are the typical things that you see?

Martin Kane: Shoplifting is one of the most common cases that we see; there are many shoplifting cases in the courts every day. And there’s really no such crime called shoplifting — shoplifting is simply a larceny; in other words, it’s taking of property and the severity of it is again dependent on the value of the item taken. So most of the shoplifting cases that we see are what are called petit larceny. Those are misdemeanor cases, not felony cases. If you are convicted of a case like that, even as a first offender, you would wind up with a criminal record for the rest of your life. You’re not very likely to go to jail but just having that record will really impact your life, literally for the rest of your life.

Shoplifting Cases Mostly Occur At Larger Departmental Stores Or Retail Outlets

Most shoplifting cases that we see are from larger stores: department stores, Home Depot, a lot of the drug store chains; we see a lot of shoplifting cases there. And one thing people should know — if somebody is picked up by the store detective, they’re not going to let you go. They are not going to turn around and say, ‘Well, OK, if you just admit that you did this and give us back the property, we’re going to let you go.’ They may say that to you, but invariably they will call the police and you will be arrested, and the store itself will try to get a civil payment from you. So if somebody is arrested, they should not sign anything that the store asks them to sign, thinking that’s going to mean that they’re going to go home — they are not.

Find out more by contacting The Law Office of Martin D. Kane at (718) 793-5700.

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