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New York Larceny Laws

Overview of New York Larceny Laws

The New York Penal Code defines the crime of larceny, a form of theft, as the wrongful taking, obtaining or withholding of property from its rightful owner. In order to secure a conviction for larceny, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused, when stealing the property, had the specific intent to either (a) cause the property to be withheld from its owner permanently or for such an extended period as to significantly decrease its worth or benefit; or (b) to exercise control over the property (or enable a third person to do so) permanently or for such an extended period as to reap the major portion of its worth or benefit.

Importantly, the legislature and state judiciary have significantly expanded the statute's definition of "property" to encompass "any money, personal property, real property, computer data, computer program, thing in action, evidence of debt or contract, or any article, substance or thing of value, including any gas, steam, water or electricity, which is provided for a charge or compensation." The value of property stolen by larcenous means will be determined by its market value at the time and place of the crime, or the cost of replacement of the property within a reasonable time after the crime.

Section 155.05 enumerates the eight recognized methods for committing larceny. The first four variations are those historically recognized as larceny: common law larceny by trespassory taking (the taking of personal property from its owner without his or her consent), common law larceny by trick (the use of fraudulent misrepresentations to come into possession of property), embezzlement (the conversion of property belonging to another which was entrusted to the embezzler,) and obtaining property by false pretenses (the making of an intentionally false statement concerning a material fact to acquire title or possession of personal property).

The latter four variations - larceny by acquiring lost property, by committing the crime of issuing a bad check, by false promise (obtaining property by means of an express or implied promise to engage in certain conduct in the future pursuant to a scheme to defraud), and by extortion (obtaining property by a wrongful use of fear which is induced by a threat of physical injury, damage to property, or other harmful consequence) - are more modern derivatives of the offense. If the prosecution cannot establish that the defendant employed one of the aforementioned means to commit the crime, no conviction may be obtained.

Like many other states, New York draws a distinction between petty larceny and grand larceny. Any act of stealing property constitutes petty larceny, a class A misdemeanor. A petty larceny offense may be elevated to grand larceny depending on the value or nature of the property stolen. For instance, a person is guilty of fourth-degree larceny - the least of the felony degrees - when the stolen property (a) exceeds $1,000 in value, (b) is taken "from the person of another" regardless of its nature or value, (c) is obtained by extortion, or (d) consists of an item specified in the statute. On the other end of the spectrum, first-degree larceny occurs when the stolen property exceeds one million dollars in value.

Larceny and robbery are distinct crimes. Section 160 of the Penal Code defines robbery as forcible stealing wherein a person, in the course of committing a larceny, uses or threatens the immediate use of physical force against another.

Defenses

  • Owner's consent
  • Claim of right made in good faith
  • Reasonable belief in truth of threat (for extortion)
  • Truth or ambiguity of statement (for obtaining property by false pretenses)

Penalties and Sentences

Penalties for larceny offenses vary according to the degree of the crime. Persons convicted of petty larceny may be sentenced to a prison term of no more than one year, or a fine of up to $1,000. Grand larceny convictions carry graver penalties, including a maximum sentence of 4 to 25 years in prison or a fine which is the greater of $5,000 or double the amount of the defendant's gain from commission of the crime.

Statute

Larceny
Penal Code Sections 155.00-155.45

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact a New York criminal attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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