Clothing, jewelry, handbags and other fashion accessories are renowned staples of the New York retail scene. Merchants of these and other goods rely on shoplifting laws and prosecutions to protect their inventory and bottom line. If you encounter charges of stealing from retailers, a Queens shoplifting lawyer can shepherd you into defeating the charges or limiting the consequences for you.
In New York, shoplifting falls under the umbrella of “larceny.” As in most states, you can be convicted of larceny if you wrongfully take away or keep another’s (the store’s) property with
the intent to deprive the owner of that property. 
Actually getting out of the store isn’t required to constitute larceny. The prosecutor can prove your intent to deprive the owner when you hide or take anti-theft devices off the merchandise. Larceny can also happen when you switch price tags. If you know that the employee doesn’t charge you correctly, you must correct the error or else you may face conviction.
While you don’t think of it as strictly “shoplifting,” the Penal Code considers obtaining property by a “bad check” as larceny. Section 190.05 of the Penal Code says you write a “bad check” when you know you lack sufficient funds at the time you present it, you intend or believe at the time you present it that the bank will refuse it, and the bank in fact refuses it.  Typically, you don’t have enough in the account, you don’t have one, or you closed it.
The punishment for larceny depends largely on the value of what you’re accused to taking. 
“Petit larceny” means you took something small, which means no more than $1,000 in value. It carries maximum penalties of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
For items between $1,001 and $3,000, the shoplifting becomes “Grand larceny in the fourth degree” and subjects you to as much as four years in prison. The maximum confinement rises to seven years for “Grand larceny in the third degree,” where the value ranges from $3,001 to $50,000. Grand larceny graduates to “second degree” thereafter and a maximum 15-year prison term for values up to $1 million.
If you somehow shoplift something worth more than $1 million, you have committed “Grand larceny in the first degree” with imprisonment lasting up to 25 years.
In addition, there is a civil side to shoplifting. Retailers can bring lawsuits against shoplifters and, if the shoplifter is not older than 16 and is not emancipated, against the parents or guardian.  The judgment is the retail price (up to $1,500) unless the merchant gets it back a condition for selling. In addition, you face a civil penalty of the greater of $75 or five times the price of the merchandise, up to a maximum amount of $500.
The retailer can sue without a conviction or charge. Unlike the prosecutor, the shopkeeper need only prove that it was more likely than not that you (or your minor) shoplifted. This is less than “beyond a reasonable doubt” in criminal cases.
Some merchants will try to get you to pay or will allow you to negotiate, even before taking out charges or suing. New York law allows one to hold you upon a reasonable belief that you shoplifted. However, the courts may not look kindly upon demands for payment or signed confessions while they hold you.  Thus, don’t feel compelled to sign away rights or admit guilt right then.
Responding to a suit or threatened one doesn’t expose you to a conviction. Section 11-105(12) of the General Obligations Law provides that your testimony in a civil case, the fact that you settled or tried to settle, and anything you say in negotiations cannot be used as evidence in a criminal prosecution. 
Many defenses involve the issue of whether you intended to deprive the owner of the merchandise. Since intent is an element of larceny, you don’t have to prove that you lacked larcenous intent.
By virtue of Penal Law Section 155.15, you can defeat a larceny by trespassory taking prosecution if you possessed a good faith belief that you were entitled to possess or take the merchandise.  This “claim of right” may arise, for instance, if a manager or supervisor permitted you to take the item without paying in full. Also, a belief backed with some facts that you met the sale terms may help create reasonable doubt of your intent to shoplift.
Defendants may find themselves the victims of the optics of having shoplifted. A sudden emergency or urgent smart phone call causes you to rush out of the store before paying. Unbeknownst to you, something small falls into your purse. Perhaps your toddler or young child appropriates a toy and leaves the store without paying for it. These and similar scenarios suggest you didn’t intent to unlawfully take the merchandise.
Back to the bad check theory of larceny. You may defend based on the good faith belief that you had enough money in the account to cover the check. Through a bank error, your check was not deposited correctly. Math errors may lead you to a belief your account had enough. Identify or card thieves have raided your funds and you don’t discover it until later, even after you’re charged with larceny.
As a general rule, don’t count on returning the property or payment after being charged for a dismissal or not guilty verdict. However, these gestures might mitigate your sentence.
Talk to one of our shoplifting attorneys about defending or lessening the impact of a shoplifting charge.
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