What is Considered Grand Larceny in New York?
The penalties for theft are primarily dependent on the value of the stolen property. A person who steals a candy bar from a pharmacy is obviously not going to face the same sort of consequences as someone who steals a sports car.
In New York, theft is typically charged as Petit Larceny or some degree of Grand Larceny.
The most basic form of theft in New York, called Petit Larceny, is charged when a person steals property of a value up to $1000. Petit Larceny is a misdemeanor which is a crime. Technically you can be sentenced up to a year for committing Petit Larceny. That said, it is incredibly rare for a person to be sentenced to anywhere close to a year in jail for committing Petit Larceny. For a person to be sentenced to any considerable amount of jail time for Petit Larceny, they will likely have a long criminal record and history of stealing. Even then, they probably will not get much jail time unless the property’s value is very close to $1000, or the nature of the theft is particularly bad or vindictive, like knowingly stealing a person’s family heirloom, etc.
For most people who are charged with Petit Larceny for the first time, and the theft is of something basic and unimportant—say sneakers from Macy’s—your criminal defense attorney can typically work a deal to get the charges reduced to a non-criminal offense.
If the stolen property is valued at $1000 or more, then the charge will be grand larceny, which is a felony. When a person is charged with grand larceny, their sentence can be a lot more serious than it would be if they were only charged with Petit Larceny. Prison is definitely a possible sentence for a person convicted of grand larceny, but it typically depends on the person’s criminal record and the value of the stolen property.
It’s worth mentioning that not all grand larceny charges are based on the value of the stolen property. For instance, you can be charged with grand larceny if you steal a credit card or a shotgun. There are many strange instances where you can be charged with grand larceny for stealing specific things or in a specific way, even if the value of the property is not over $1000. An experienced criminal defense attorney can assess your specific situation to determine whether any charges are justified.
Although $1000 is the threshold of value that turns petit larceny into grand larceny, there are higher amounts that make the degree of grand larceny worse, which exposes the defendant to a more severe sentencing range. In New York the grand larceny thresholds are $1000, $3000, $50,000, and $1,000,000.
Once you pass any of those thresholds, the sentencing range will be higher. That said, the prosecutor and judge will consider the specific value of stolen property within a given range and when determining the proper sentence within that sentencing range. For instance, the valuation range of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree is very wide—from over $50,000 right up to a million dollars. If a person steals $51,000 dollars of property, their sentence is undoubtedly going to be better than if he stole $999,000 worth of property.
Defenses to Grand Larceny
Although grand larceny charges are serious and can result in significant consequences, defenses exist for many grand larceny cases that can result in the charges getting dropped. Common defenses include claim of right, temporary possession, and valuation.
Claim of Right
A common defense to grand larceny is when a person has a claim of right. In other words, the defendant has a legitimate claim that he is in fact the owner of the property.
For instance, say a defendant sells an item to an acquaintance, who tells the defendant that he will get paid next week and will give him the money for the item then. If the acquaintance never pays the defendant for the item, the defendant has a claim of right if he takes back the property. Since the acquaintance never paid him for the item as he said he would per their agreement, the defendant has a legitimate claim to the item, which can be a successful defense to grand larceny.
For a person to be convicted of any larceny offense, the prosecution needs to prove that he intended to permanently deprive the owner of the property. A person should not be convicted if the taking of the property was only temporary.
For instance, say you ask to borrow your brother’s car for the afternoon so that you can go to a job interview. In this example, your brother says no, you can’t borrow the car, but you take it anyway, without him knowing at first.
After using it, you leave it exactly where it was in his driveway, without a scratch. However, your brother later notices that you left one of your personal belongings in the car. If he were to get so upset with you that he called the police and you were then arrested for grand larceny, you would have a great defense to that charge because your possession of the vehicle was temporary. You didn’t intend to permanently deprive your brother of his vehicle. You only intended to use it for the afternoon.
For some grand larceny charges, you may be able to successfully argue that the prosecution is inaccurately assessing the value of the stolen property.
For instance, say you are in a situation where you have been charged with Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree for allegedly taking one of those old, big-screen TVs that weighs a ton. You found it on the sidewalk and thought someone was throwing it away, but it turns out a person was just moving and had piled up property outside for their mover. The prosecution says you should have known the property wasn’t being given away, but you dispute that. Beyond the primary question of whether you intended to wrongfully and permanently deprive the owner of his property, you also have a strong defense regarding the valuation of the TV.
When that TV was sold 20 years ago, it was incredible technology, and it costed $1500, well above the $1000 threshold for Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree. The owner of the property even has a receipt showing the exact price he paid for it at Best Buy, which the prosecution uses as evidence in its case.
You would have a strong defense against the grand larceny charge in this situation because the TV is no longer worth $1500. To determine the proper valuation, the jury must consider what the cost would be to replace the item at the time of the alleged offense. For one of those old big-screen TVs, most people can’t even pay someone to take them away these days. Although the sticker price of the TV was over $1000, your attorney could easily argue that the prosecution is wrong to value the TV over $1000 today.
Seek Legal Guidance From a Skilled Criminal Defense Lawyer in NYC
If you have been charged with grand larceny in New York City, give me a call for a free consultation. We can discuss your case, and I’ll determine the right legal strategy for you.