Theft is a serious offense under New York law and can permanently affect the lives of those convicted, regardless of the value of what was taken. Even a conviction of Petit Larceny can carry up to 1 year in jail. Depending on your criminal record and the circumstances of the crime, other theft convictions can carry a much harsher penalty.
While the information on this website can help you understand New York penalties for theft crimes, it is not legal advice. An experienced criminal defense attorney can be a significant asset to have on your side. An experienced attorney can help guide you through criminal proceedings, fight for dropped charges, or pursue minimized sentences. This may be able to help you retain a clear criminal record and keep you out of jail.
Queens Theft Defense Attorney
It's important not to take your theft charge lightly, regardless of the amount stolen, or if the retailer attempted to enter into private negotiations with you. These are not petty crimes that should be approached without a strategy. Remember, a criminal conviction on your record can have potentially disastrous repercussions on your future prospects. This will appear on background checks and may impact job searches, housing, and certain licensing.
Queens criminal defense attorney Rochelle S. Berliner has spent almost twenty years working within the New York criminal justice system. Her 14 years as a state prosecutor provided her with a deep insight into prosecution strategies and potential weaknesses. She uses this knowledge to defend men, women and minors who have been charged with theft violations in Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan and The Bronx.
Contact the Law Office to discuss your situation during a comprehensive consultation. Rochelle S. Berliner is dedicated to educating her clients on the charges they face and possible paths that they can pursue. Call the Law Office at for a consultation today.
- New York Theft Statutes
- Penalties for Theft Charges in New York
- False Accusations of Theft in New York
- Attempted Retailer Negotiation
- Collateral Consequences of Shoplifting in New York
- New York Resources for Theft Charges
New York's Penal Law provides definitions of common theft offenses and the penalties for a conviction of these offenses. The most common theft charges in New York are:
- Petit Larceny, N.Y. Penal Law § 155.25 — A person can be convicted of this offense, which is a class A misdemeanor, if they steal property. Shoplifting is an example of Petit Larceny.
- Grand Larceny, N.Y. Penal Law §§ 155.30 through 155.42 — This offense is stealing property, and can be in the first, second, third or fourth degree, depending on the value of the item, the type of item, and whether extortion was used to commit the theft. Most items in grand larceny are typically valued at least at $1,000. A conviction for this offense can be a class E, D, C or B felony.
- Theft of Services, N.Y. Penal Law § 165.15 — A person is guilty of this offense if they use a credit card they knew was stolen for services, obtain restaurant, hotel, public transportation, telecommunication, or other services with the intention of not paying, or tamper with any device to avoid paying for the services measured by the device. A conviction of this offense can be either a class A misdemeanor or a class E felony. The most common example of Theft of Services is turnstile-jumping, which is failure to pay a subway or bus fare.
- Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle, N.Y. Penal Law §§ 165.05, 165.06 and 165.08 — Unauthorized use of a vehicle, or Auto Theft, is taking, operating, or otherwise using a vehicle with knowledge that the owner did not give consent to do so. This offense can be in the first, second or third degree, depending on the severity of the offense, the number of prior convictions of the same or similar offense, and whether the alleged offender used the vehicle in the commission of a felony offense. A conviction of auto theft can be a class A misdemeanor, or a class E or D felony.
- Identity Theft, N.Y. Penal Law §§ 190.80-A through 190.78 — A person can be charged with this offense if they knowingly assume the identity of another person, or use personal information of another person to obtain items or commit a crime with the intent to defraud that person. This offense can be in the third, second or first degree, or aggravated, depending on the amount of financial loss to the person, whether the offender committed a felony with the identity, whether the offender has previous theft convictions, and if the offense was committed against a deployed member of the armed services. This offense can be classified as a class A misdemeanor, or a class E or D felony.
New York's Penal Law lists the maximum fines and terms of imprisonment for all misdemeanors and felonies. However, these sentences can be modified if the offender has prior convictions, if the offense is severe, or if the offender is considered a juvenile, a youthful offender or a persistent or violent offender.
- Class B felony convictions can result in up to 25 years imprisonment (for someone with no prior felony convictions), and can include fines up to $5,000 or double the amount gained from committing the crime;
- Class C felonies can incur up to 15 years imprisonment (for someone with no prior felony convictions), and can include fines up to $5,000 or double the amount gained from committing the crime;
- Class D felony convictions can incur up to seven years imprisonment (for someone with no prior felony convictions), and can include fines up to $5,000 or double the amount gained from committing the crime;
- Class E felonies can incur up to four years imprisonment (for someone with no prior felony convictions), and can include fines up to $5,000 or double the amount gained from committing the crime; and
- Class A misdemeanors can lead to a jail term of up to one year and/or fines up to $1,000.
It's not unusual to be accused of theft when you did not actually commit a crime. Sometimes in cases of shoplifting, a shopper may have forgotten there was an item in their cart they didn't pay for. Distractions can easily cause someone to unintentionally shoplift. However, an employee who is following department policy may still insist that you have stolen the item and pursue an arrest, regardless of the item's worth.
In other cases, an employee can be accused of stealing items from work. This can be damaging to their career and cause additional hardships. In some cases the motivation to accuse an employee of theft is personal and not based on any crime that actually occurred.
Even if you have not committed the theft, it is important to treat the matter seriously. It is not enough to claim your innocence. In fact, giving a statement without legal counsel may harm your case. Individuals who have been accused of a crime are often overwhelmed, embarrassed or emotional. This may result in giving conflicting details in a statement, or forgetting to give important details.
After you have been accused of alleged theft, a retailer may make an attempt to negotiate. This could mean offering to drop charges if you provide a statement of confession or simply pay the amount the items were worth. The retailer and law enforcement officers have their own best interests in mind – not yours.
Be aware they may not honor their word, and instead attempt to use this information in court later to demonstrate your guilt. Any statements made to the police officer may also be used to incriminate you at a later date. It may be in your best interest to remain silent and obtain the services of a defense attorney.
Alleged shoplifting offenders can also face collateral consequences in addition to criminal penalties. These consequences often arise when someone exercises bad judgment and takes something from a store without paying. The store's security will most likely stop the person before leaving the store and bring them into their office. The store will let the person go without calling the police if they return the items taken from the store. However, store security will require the person to sign a confession and/or a promise never to return to the store. If this scenario happens to you, you must be aware that even though you will most likely not be arrested under these circumstances, you will probably receive a letter from a law firm stating it represents the store. The law firm will make a money demand, pursuant to New York General Obligations Law § 11-105, in exchange for not suing you in civil court.
If you were arrested for the theft and your case is adjourned in contemplation of dismissal (ACD'd), you will still get the demand letter from the law firm representing the store. Obviously, if you are convicted of the criminal shoplifting offense, you will get the same letter.
The law firm's letter will demand immediate payment to avoid civil liability. A person who is not represented by an experienced attorney may proceed in the wrong direction when receiving this letter, and may end up facing harsher consequences. It is in your best interest to contact an attorney who is experienced in these matters. The attorney will contact the law firm and take over all correspondence relating to the demand.
You should be aware that New York law allows the store to sue a defendant for the retail price of the merchandise, but if the merchandise is not in a resalable condition, then for an amount not more than $1,500. The defendant will also be required to pay a penalty of $75 or up to five times the amount of the merchandise, whichever is greater (but not to exceed $500).
If you respond to the demand letters without the assistance of an attorney, you could end up paying a high penalty amount. Alternatively, if you ignore the demand letter, the store could get a judgment against you, which would negatively affect your credit history. An experienced criminal defense attorney would be able to advise you of your best course of action in this type of situation, and could negotiate on your behalf to pay a much smaller penalty amount.
National Association for Shoplifting Prevention – The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP) conducts shoplifting research and collaborates with community stakeholders to provide prevention and education services. NASP works with local law enforcement officers, retail centers and juvenile justice programs.
Kleptomaniacs and Shoplifters Anonymous – This organization, also known as CASA, provides counseling and support services to men and women who are habitual shoplifters or kleptomaniacs. Their New York chapter is located at:CASA
303 West 42nd Street at 8th Avenue
New York, NY
Law Office | Queens Theft Arrest Lawyer
If you have been charged with a theft offense in any of the five boroughs of New York City, including Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx, or in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, call the Law Office. Queens criminal defense attorney Rochelle S. Berliner is dedicated to helping you find the best possible outcome of your situation.
Contact the Law Office today for a consultation about your alleged theft offense at or submit an online form.
- Theft Crimes