New York Laws on Petit and Grand Larceny and Shoplifting

Like many states, New York classifies its larceny offenses according to the value of the stolen property—and, in some cases, according to the type of property involved in the larceny.

By , Attorney

New York's larceny statute covers a broad range of prohibited conduct, including theft, embezzlement, larceny by trick, false pretenses, acquiring lost property, and taking property by extortion.

Defining Larceny Under New York Law

In New York, larceny occurs when a person wrongfully takes, obtains, or withholds property from its rightful owner, with the intent to deprive the owner of such property.

New York law identifies a number of specific methods of committing larceny, including:

  • larceny by trick or embezzlement
  • obtaining property by false pretenses or false promises
  • acquiring lost property, and
  • taking property by extortion.

Property includes any money, personal or real property, computer data or program, evidence of debt or contract, or any article, substance, or thing of value (such as gas, water, or electricity), which is provided for a charge or compensation.

A person "deprives" another of property in one of two ways—either by (1) withholding it from the owner permanently or for such an extended period of time that the owner loses a major portion of its economic value or benefit or (2) disposing of the property in a way that makes it unlikely the owner will be able to recover it.

(N.Y. Penal Law §§ 155.00, 155.05 (2020).)

Classification of Larceny Offenses and Penalties in New York

Like most states, New York classifies larceny according to the monetary value or type of property involved. Let's take a closer look at how this state defines and penalizes larceny crimes.

Petit Larceny

The lowest-level larceny offense in New York is called petit larceny, which is involves stolen property worth $1,000 or less. Petit larceny is a class A misdemeanor, which subjects the offender to up to 364 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree

The crime of grand larceny in the fourth degree covers several different types of theft—the most common of which involve stolen property when:

  • the value of the property is over $1,000
  • the property consists of a credit or debit card
  • the property, regardless of its nature and value, is taken from the person of another or obtained by extortion using threats to harm another's reputation or business
  • the property involves firearms, rifles, or shotguns, or
  • the property is a motor vehicle worth over $100.

Fourth-degree grand larceny constitutes a class E felony, whereby a guilty party can receive a sentence of up to four years' imprisonment and a fine in the amount of $5,000 or double the offender's gain from the crime (which is the same fine-related penalty for all levels of grand larceny).

Grand Larceny in the Third Degree

An offender is guilty of grand larceny in the third degree when the value of the stolen property exceeds $3,000 or the property is an automated teller machine (ATM) or its contents. Such an offense is a class D felony and carries up to seven years in prison and a fine.

Grand Larceny in the Second Degree

A person commits grand larceny in the second degree by stealing property worth more than $50,000 or by obtaining any amount of property via extortion involving threats of physical harm, property damage, or abuse of one's position as a public servant. This level of larceny constitutes a class C felony. A guilty defendant faces up to 15 years in prison and a fine.

Grand Larceny in the First Degree

A person is guilty of grand larceny in the first degree when the value of the stolen property exceeds one million dollars. The law classifies such a crime as a class B felony, which carries up to 25 years in prison and a fine.

Sentencing Enhancements for Persistent Offenders

New York law provides for increased penalties for repeat offenders. Defendants guilty of a grand larceny offense who have a previous grand larceny conviction on their records face mandatory minimum sentences in prison. For example, a person who commits fourth-degree grand larceny, having already been convicted of felony larceny, faces a minimum sentence of three years in prison.

(N.Y. Penal Law §§ 70.00, 70.06, 70.10, 70.15, 80.00, 80.05, 155.25, 155.30, 155.35, 155.40, 155.42 (2020).)

Shoplifting Penalties in New York

Like many states, New York shoplifting laws provide for both criminal and civil penalties.

Criminal Penalties for Shoplifting

New York penalizes shoplifting as a larceny offense. The criminal penalties for shoplifting are based on the value of the merchandise involved. See above for larceny penalties. Although many states treat shoplifting as a misdemeanor, it's not difficult to see how quickly shoplifting can become a serious felony in New York. A person who steals an item worth more than $1,000, such as a smartphone, faces felony penalties.

In addition to shoplifting, New York also punishes criminal possession of an anti-security item (like a coated bag or security tag remover), when the person intends to use the device to steal merchandise. This offense is a class B misdemeanor and carries up to three months in jail and a $500 fine.

Civil Penalties for Shoplifting

In addition to criminal penalties for larceny (as described above), a person who commits shoplifting in New York (or the parent or legal guardian of a minor who commits shoplifting) may be held civilly liable to the store owner or merchant for the following:

  • the retail price of the merchandise, if not returned in a sellable condition, in an amount not to exceed $1,500, plus
  • a penalty not to exceed $75 or the greater of five times the retail price (with a cap of $500).

(N.Y. Gen. Oblig. Law § 11-105; N.Y. Penal Law §§ 70.15, 80.05, 170.47 (2020).)

Talk to a Lawyer

If you've been charged with larceny or a related offense, such as embezzlement or shoplifting, contact a local criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can guide you through the local court process, explain your constitutional rights, and discuss any potential defenses for your unique circumstances.

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