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What Happens If I Am Arrested For Shoplifting In NYC?

Shoplifting is one of the most commonly prosecuted theft crimes in New York City Criminal Court. The first question that we ask of prospective shoplifting clients is what was the total value of the merchandise allegedly stolen. In New York, theft of up to $1,000.00 is a Class A Misdemeanor Petit Larceny. Theft of over $1,000.00 is a felony Grand Larceny. There are several levels of grand larceny depending on the value of the stolen item. Whether it is charged as a misdemeanor or felony, shoplifting is a crime. Pleading guilty or being convicted of it will result in permanent criminal record and other legal consequences including deportation where the defendant is not a U.S. citizen.

Most shoplifting crimes charged in NYC are misdemeanors although there is a number of instances where people are charged with grand larceny (usually these cases involve upper scale department stores).

What Happens After I Am Arrested?

If you are arrested for petit larceny in NYC, the police is likely to issue you a DAT (desk appearance ticket), instructing you to come to court for your arraignment on a certain date. If you are arrested for felony grand larceny, you are likely to be detained for approximately 24  hours  at Central Booking until you see the judge who will decide bail. In most shoplifting cases in New York City, even involving felonies, arraignment judges don’t set bail and release defendants on their own recognizance (ROR).

What Are My Options?

As with any other criminal case, your NYC shoplifting case can be resolved in three ways. You can go to trial, you can negotiate a plea agreement with the DA’s Office, or in some cases the case will be dismissed because the DA would not have enough evidence to go to trial. The decision whether to take your shoplifting case to trial can only be made later in the case after weighing all the pros and cons and realistically comparing the risk of losing against the proposed offer. The District Attorney’s Office will usually make an offer of disposition at the arraignment or at some later time. In most fist time misdemeanor shoplifting cases (excluding Staten Island), the DA will offer to dispose by the case by way of a plea to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct, which is a violation and not a crime. This means that if you agree to acknowledge wrong doing in court and do a few days of community service, the case will be dismissed and your arrest record sealed in one year. While this resolution is acceptable to most clients, it could be problematic to others, particularly those employed in the financial industry or in the education sector, as well as those non-citizens who plan to apply for visas upgrades. While a violation is not a deportable crime, it needs to be disclosed to the immigration service and an immigration officer in his or her discretion may deny your request for a visa upgrade or extension.

To avoid these potential complications, it is always better to resolve your shoplifting case in NYC by an ACD (adjournment in contemplation to dismissal). The benefit of an ACD is that you don’t have to acknowledge any wrongdoing and the arrest record will be sealed in only 6 months. It is essentially a slap on the wrist and carries practically no legal consequences. The DA almost never offers an ACD at the arraignment and in most boroughs this is something you have to work very hard to obtain.

Should I Hire A Lawyer For My Shoplifting Case in NYC?

We are asked this question all the time. Apparently, many police officers tell people newly arrested for shoplifting that these are not serious charges that don’t need a lawyer. This is only partially true. If you are arrested for stealing a very low cost item, you will be offered a plea involving a violation and community service. If this is acceptable to you, there is no need to hire a lawyer. Court will provide you a free legal aid attorney who is more than capable of getting you that result. However, if you are not interested in pleading guilty and only want an ACD or dismissal or if the charge involves more than just a a few dollars item, you may consider consulting a private criminal lawyer who will have the time  and the resources to fight for the optimal outcome.

Will I Go To Jail for Shoplifting in NYC?

While this is extremely unlikely, you may end up in jail if  you take your case to trial and lose. You may also serve some time if this is not your first offense and you are charged with a felony grand larceny.

How Much Will I Pay in Legal Fees to Defend My NYC Shoplifting Case?

This also depends on who you hire. If you shop around, you will find less experienced attorneys charging as little as $1,500 or even less for a shoplifting case and you will find more seasoned criminal lawyers charging much higher fees. It also matters on whether it is a felony or a misdemeanor and on the prior criminal record. It all depends on the attorney’s experience and willingness to go an extra mile to secure the desired outcome. It is true that a lawyer does not need much time to “plead out” the defendant but it could take much more time invested in the case to get that ACD from the DA, and that often includes making motions and making repeated court appearances. The axiom “you get what you pay for” holds true when it comes to choosing an attorney for a criminal case.

If you are arrested for shoplifting in New York City, call us today at (212) 577 6677 to set up a consultation.