Petit Larceny (Shoplifting) Charges in Westchester and Putnam County, New York
One of the more frequently charged offenses in the local criminal courts of Westchester and Putnam County is Petit Larceny, and the most frequent form of petit larceny accusations is what would commonly be referred to as shoplifting. Our experience with shoplifting charges in Westchester and Putnam counties has been that often people who are accused are NOT professional shoplifters. In fact, quite the opposite is often the case. People accused of shoplifting who have never been arrested before are frequently reacting to some sort of emotional trauma in their lives and somehow this ends up with an accusation of petit larceny. They typically have no financial need to take the property, and nine times out of ten they will have purchased other items from the store far in excess of the value of the item they are accused of taking without paying.
People in this situation are often filled with anxiety not only about being accused of a crime in the first place, but also about trying to understand how they ended up in the situation.
Reasonable Settlements are usually available through negotiation
However you ended up being accused of shoplifting, the good news is that if some sort of settlement of the matter is something that you might be interested in, as opposed to a year long courtroom struggle leading toward a public trial, the prosecutors and the Courts are often quite willing to negotiate with your criminal defense lawyer. Several possible solutions to petit larceny charges exist and are often available through negotiation, especially for people who have never been arrested before. Neither jail nor criminal conviction are part of these often sought and often obtained solutions.
These solutions include a settlement to a lesser, non-criminal charge called "disorderly conduct" or even a kind of a delayed dismissal procedure known as Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD). In either case, there will be possible counseling, community service, and fines/surcharges made part of the deal, but your case will be individually negotiated in your best interests by your lawyer.
You don't have to leave the store...
One common misconception about shoplifting-like petit larceny charges is the notion that if you don't leave the store with something, then you can't be guilty of petit larceny. This is false. Without getting too legally technical, the crime of petit larceny is complete the moment an item is taken into your control along with an intent to steal it. The reason that leaving the store is often considered a big deal is that while as a technical legal matter the crime of petit larceny is complete the moment you take control of the item with the intent to steal it, as a practical matter it is very hard to prove at that moment.
Since we are generally assumed to intend the natural consequences of our actions, the act of leaving the store without paying is arguably fantastic evidence that your intent was to steal it. Of course this is not conclusive mathematical proof, but it is enough for an arrest and prosecution. This is why store security will often wait to stop people after they have left the store. It makes for an easier case to prove. But if they have some good evidence before the suspect leaves, such as the suspect places an item into a secret compartment sewed into his jacket, there is nothing to prevent an accusation of petit larceny prior to physically leaving the store.
Beware of Consequences from Arrest
Shoplifting cases, as with all criminal cases, can carry tricky payloads of collateral consequences for people who work in certain professions or who are licensed by the Government in various ways, or non-citizens.
Shoplifting cases in particular can be extremely tricky for people who work in the financial industry in FDIC regulated enterprises (like banks, hedge funds, etc). Since shoplifting is a crime involving an accusation of "theft" people in the financial industry will have to answer for the accusation, regardless of the outcome. In fact, one of the most highly sought after resolutions, the ACD, which seems so nice (since it involves no plea of guilt to anything and the case is ultimately dismissed) in this narrow circumstance is actually a terrible, potential career ending resolution for a person in the financial industry. The financial industry treats an ACD as a "diversionary program" which has the consequence of making it almost as if the person had been found guilty of the petit larceny charge itself - even though the criminal case may ultimately be dismissed.
Get help from a criminal lawyer
Therefore, while reasonable, even fantastic resolutions for petit larceny (shoplifting) charges are often available through negotiation between your lawyer and the court and prosecutor in Westchester and Putnam County, you need the guidance of an attorney. Petit Larceny charges may be relatively small problems in the grand scheme of things, but they are small problems worth solving well. Contact a Westchester criminal defense lawyer from Shalley and Murray and let one of us help you with your case.
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