Interviewer: What is the law on shoplifting? Is it a misdemeanor?
Stuart: Shoplifting is usually seen as petit larceny, which means that it is larceny with no force; taking of property with no force. Also, the value is under $1,000. In that case, it is petit larceny and an “A” misdemeanor.
If the value is over $1,000, meaning you go into a store and steal 500 jackets, then it becomes grand larceny and that is a felony.
Interviewer: A petit larceny is a misdemeanor, and grand larceny is a felony. Is that correct?
Stuart: Yes, that is correct. Also, grand larceny has two different values. The lower level grand larceny is property over $1,000 but less than $3,000. The next degree is $3,000 up to $50,000. Then, over $50,000 is the highest level.
Interviewer: What are the $3,000 to $50,000 and the $50,000 and up ranges called? Are they just called grand larceny of higher degrees?
Stuart: Yes, just grand larceny; whether it is grand larceny third, grand larceny second, grand larceny first. You give it a higher degree.
Interviewer: What are the potential penalties for shoplifting under $1,000 and for shoplifting over $1,000?
Stuart: For a misdemeanor petit larceny, it ranges from nothing to one year in jail. But most first-timers who get arrested for petit larceny do not end up pleading guilty to petit larceny.
Usually, they are given some form of a plea bargain. Sometimes they will even be given a dismissal, what we call an ACOD– adjournment in contemplation of dismissal. Legally, it means the case is adjourned, usually for six months.
If at the end of six months they have had no issues with the law and there are no problems, then they will end up dismissing the case. In essence, after six months, anybody who checks their record gets a dismissal.
There is another plea bargain that sometimes happens for somebody who has more of a record, or a larger value, or some extenuating circumstances. Sometimes they will plead to a non-criminal disposition of a violation.
Again, it is not a crime. It does not show up on a background check as a crime. However, it is a violation of the law and it is not as good as a dismissal. There is usually a fine associated with that.
Then, the next degrees are some forms of misdemeanors, which are crimes and could hold a jail sentence. It could hold probation. It could hold a fine also.
Interviewer: In Nassau County and Suffolk County, are there particular types of places where people commit more petit larcenies? Are there favorite stores that people shoplift from?
Stuart: That is a pretty interesting question. I do not think so. I would say that it is more of the big box stores; whether Macy’s, Best Buy, Target. It is more of those places, and a lot of the malls they go to. It is not so much the smaller stores.
Interviewer: That is kind of weird because those stores have better security, and I guess are looking for shoplifters. Why would people steal from those stores? Also, I guess probably CVS or Walgreens are commonly stolen from too.
Stuart: That is right. I cannot really answer why people steal. My guess is that the stores are much bigger. In the mom and pop store, it is just one or two people working there and they are looking at only three or four aisles.
You go into Macy’s and there are multiple floors. Somebody may be watching you on a camera, but it is very unlikely that there is enough security to be on every floor in every department. It is kind of a law of averages.
I want to add something with regards to somebody who is charged with petit larceny of a store, like Macy’s or Best Buy. The law allows them to sue you for a civil penalty. In essence, that could be the amount of what you have stolen, even though you did not get away with it.
Suppose you stole $200 worth of clothes. If they recovered all the items and could still sell all the items, they could still sue you for that $200 civilly; as well as a penalty of up to $500 sometimes.
A lot of the people we represent are getting letters from either the stores or the lawyers for the stores, in essence saying, “You owe us this amount of money. You owe use these dollars or we are going to do ‘XYZ’ to you.”
People should also be aware that it is not just a crime they are being charged with. They will also have to deal with the civil aspects of it.
Interviewer: If someone hires you and then they get sued civilly, can you help them or do you have to refer the case out?
Stuart: Usually we actually do help them; although we do not do much in civil matters. This is because these things are very easy to deal with. It just takes usually an attorney’s letter to the attorney, in essence saying, “Do not contact them anymore. If you have any problems you must contact me within the next 30 days.”
Usually, they just go away because it is not worth their time for $100 or $200 to start a civil lawsuit. They are really trying to get the quick buck from somebody who has done something wrong.
The person just wants to forget about it. They get this letter. They just write a check and pay it, and never look at it.