In 2020, in the United States, there were 1,398 cases of larceny/theft per 100,000 inhabitants, making it the most prevalent crime in the nation. In response, many states are taking definitive steps to crack down on perpetrators of the crime. The public is calling for harsher penalties and more effective police response.

In other words, if you are charged with theft, it could cause you a world of problems. You could find yourself being made into an example or used as a cautionary tale by the prosecution.

That is the last thing that you want.

A conviction of theft may not seem like a big deal. It has been downplayed so much by media and there is a general attitude that “everybody is doing it.”

The problem is everyone is doing it and the public is getting tired. New laws are being written every day to crack down more on people committing theft because “everybody is doing it.”

These are problems that you do not need.

What’s more, when you have a theft conviction, it automatically makes you appear untrustworthy. Background checks for employment, housing, or even doing business with someone can bring a theft conviction to light and cast doubt on your integrity. It’s just not worth it.

So, if you have a theft charge you need a lawyer. A good criminal defense attorney will work to help you get your charges reduced or dropped completely. If the conviction is for a lesser charge, the smaller impact it has on your background check and your life.

That’s why you need the Litvak Law Firm. Mr. Litvak has worked on many theft and larceny cases, including some high-profile cases. He will fight for you and make sure your rights are protected.

Overview of Theft

Theft is a generic term that covers any and all crimes in which a person willfully and intentionally takes the personal property of someone without their consent or permission and with the intention of keeping it or converting it to their own use such as selling it.

Four elements must be met for a larceny or theft charge:

  • The unlawful taking of something and carrying it away
  • The “something” must be someone else’s property
  • Consent from the owner is not given
  • The intent of the accused is to permanently deprive the owner of the property

In New York, theft is called larceny and several laws are associated with larceny, including petit larceny and grand larceny.

Some states have merged the terms theft and larceny and only use larceny on the law books. Traditionally, larceny is just common theft which is taking someone else’s property without their permission.

Types of Theft

There is not just one action that constitutes theft. There are several crimes that can be classified as theft and the charge may be prosecuted in conjunction with other crimes.

Often the type of theft is determined by the circumstances and how much was stolen (or the value of the items stolen). A few dollars can make a big difference when it comes to theft.

Various “types” of theft typically have specific laws that address them – just as larceny does. Crimes that are often considered a type of theft or have a theft element include:

  • Petit larceny
  • Grand larceny
  • Embezzlement of monetary funds
  • Obtaining ownership of property via fraud or a fraudulent scheme
  • Issuing a bad check
  • Shoplifting 
  • Grand theft auto
  • Receiving stolen property
  • Keeping lost property even though you know the identity of the owner

Burglary and robbery are sometimes considered theft – as well as identity theft – but there are certain circumstances involved in these crimes that set them apart and laws are written specifically to address them. Sometimes a person who commits these crimes may also be charged with theft. 

Federal Theft Charges

There are several theft crimes at the federal level but seven directly mention theft.

18 U.S. Code Chapter 31 – Embezzlement and Theft

  • § 664 – Theft or embezzlement from employee benefit plan
    • Any person who embezzles steals, or unlawfully and willfully abstracts or converts to his own use or to the use of another, any of the moneys, funds, securities, premiums, credits, property, or other assets of any employee welfare benefit plan or employee pension benefit plan, or of any fund connected therewith, 
  • § 665 – Theft or embezzlement from employment and training funds; improper inducement; obstruction of investigation 
    • (a) Whoever, being an officer, director, agent, or employee of, or connected in any capacity with any agency or organization receiving financial assistance or any funds under title I of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act or title I of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 knowingly enrolls an ineligible participant, embezzles, willfully misapplies, steals, or obtains by fraud any of the moneys, funds, assets, or property which are the subject of a financial assistance agreement or contract pursuant to such Act shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than 2 years, or both; but if the amount so embezzled, misapplied, stolen, or obtained by fraud does not exceed $1,000, such person shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 1 year, or both.
    • (b) Whoever, by threat or procuring dismissal of any person from employment or of refusal to employ or refusal to renew a contract of employment in connection with a financial assistance agreement or contract under title I of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act or title I of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 induces any person to give up any money or thing of any value to any person (including such organization or agency receiving funds) shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than 1 year, or both.
    • (c) Whoever willfully obstructs or impedes or willfully endeavors to obstruct or impede, an investigation or inquiry under title I of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act or title I of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, or the regulations thereunder, shall be punished by a fine under this title, or by imprisonment for not more than 1 year, or by both such fine and imprisonment.
  • § 666 – Theft or bribery concerning programs receiving Federal funds
    • (a)Whoever, if the circumstance described in subsection (b) of this section exists—
      • (1) being an agent of an organization, or of a State, local, or Indian tribal government, or any agency thereof—
        • (A)embezzles, steals, obtains by fraud, or otherwise without authority knowingly converts to the use of any person other than the rightful owner or intentionally misapplies, property that—
          • (i) is valued at $5,000 or more, and
          • (ii) is owned by, or is under the care, custody, or control of such organization, government, or agency; or
        • (B) corruptly solicits or demands for the benefit of any person, or accepts or agrees to accept, anything of value from any person, intending to be influenced or rewarded in connection with any business, transaction, or series of transactions of such organization, government, or agency involving anything of value of $5,000 or more; or
      • (2) corruptly gives, offers, or agrees to give anything of value to any person, with intent to influence or reward an agent of an organization or of a State, local or Indian tribal government, or any agency thereof, in connection with any business, transaction, or series of transactions of such organization, government, or agency involving anything of value of $5,000 or more. 
    • (b) The circumstance referred to in subsection (a) of this section is that the organization, government, or agency receives, in any one year period, benefits in excess of $10,000 under a Federal program involving a grant, contract, subsidy, loan, guarantee, insurance, or other form of Federal assistance.
    • (c) This section does not apply to bona fide salary, wages, fees, or other compensation paid, or expenses paid or reimbursed, in the usual course of business.
  • § 667 – Theft of livestock
    • Whoever obtains or uses the property of another which has a value of $10,000 or more in connection with the marketing of livestock in interstate or foreign commerce with intent to deprive the other of a right to the property or a benefit of the property or to appropriate the property to his own use or the use of another
  • § 668 – Theft of major artwork
    • (a)DEFINITIONS. —In this section—
      • (1) “museum” means an organized and permanent institution, the activities of which affect interstate or foreign commerce, that—
        • (A) is situated in the United States.
        • (B) is established for an essentially educational or aesthetic purpose.
        • (C) has a professional staff; and
        • (D) owns, utilizes, and cares for tangible objects that are exhibited to the public on a regular schedule.
      • (2) “object of cultural heritage” means an object that is—
        • (A) over 100 years old and worth in excess of $5,000; or
        • (B) worth at least $100,000.
    • (b)OFFENSES. —A person who—
      • (1) steals or obtains by fraud from the care, custody, or control of a museum any object of cultural heritage; or
      • (2) knowing that an object of cultural heritage has been stolen or obtained by fraud, if in fact the object was stolen or obtained from the care, custody, or control of a museum (whether or not that fact is known to the person), receives, conceals, exhibits, or disposes of the object, 
  • § 669 – Theft or embezzlement in connection with health care
    • (a) Whoever knowingly and willfully embezzles, steals, or otherwise without authority converts to the use of any person other than the rightful owner, or intentionally misapplies any of the moneys, funds, securities, premiums, credits, property, or other assets of a health care benefit program, 
  • § 670 – Theft of medical products
    • (a)Prohibited Conduct. —Whoever, in, or using any means or facility of, interstate or foreign commerce—
      • (1) embezzles, steals, or by fraud or deception obtains, or knowingly and unlawfully takes, carries away, or conceals a pre-retail medical product.
      • (2) knowingly and falsely makes, alters, forges, or counterfeits the labeling or documentation (including documentation relating to origination or shipping) of a pre-retail medical product.
      • (3) knowingly possesses, transports, or traffics in a pre-retail medical product that was involved in a violation of paragraph (1) or (2).
      • (4) with intent to defraud, buys, or otherwise obtains, a pre-retail medical product that has expired or been stolen.
      • (5) with intent to defraud, sells, or distributes, a pre-retail medical product that is expired or stolen; or
      • (6) attempts or conspires to violate any of paragraphs (1) through (5); shall be punished as provided in subsection (c) and subject to the other sanctions provided in this section.
    • (b)Aggravated Offenses. —An offense under this section is an aggravated offense if—
      • (1) the defendant is employed by, or is an agent of, an organization in the supply chain for the pre-retail medical product; or
      • (2) the violation—
        • (A) involves the use of violence, force, or a threat of violence or force.
        • (B) involves the use of a deadly weapon.
        • (C) results in serious bodily injury or death, including serious bodily injury or death resulting from the use of the medical product involved; or
        • (D) is subsequent to a prior conviction for an offense under this section.

New York Theft Charges

Under New York law, theft is referred to as larceny. New York has strict definitions and parameters for the crime of larceny.

§ 155.00 – Larceny: Defined

  • 1. A person steals property and commits larceny when, with intent to deprive another of property or to appropriate the same to himself or to a third person, he wrongfully takes, obtains or withholds such property from an owner thereof.
  • 2. Larceny includes a wrongful taking, obtaining or withholding of another`s property, with the intent prescribed in subdivision one of this section, committed in any of the following ways:
    • (a) By conduct heretofore defined or known as common law larceny by trespassory taking, common law larceny by trick, embezzlement, or obtaining property by false pretenses.
    • (b) By acquiring lost property. A person acquires lost property when he exercises control over property of another which he knows to have been lost or mislaid, or to have been delivered under a mistake as to the identity of the recipient or the nature or amount of the property, without taking reasonable measures to return such property to the owner. 
    • (c) By committing the crime of issuing a bad check, as defined in section 190.05.
    • (d) By false promise. A person obtains property by false promise when, pursuant to a scheme to defraud, he obtains property of another by means of a representation, express or implied, that he or a third person will in the future engage in particular conduct, and when he does not intend to engage in such conduct or, as the case may be, does not believe that the third person intends to engage in such conduct. In any prosecution for larceny based upon a false promise, the defendant`s intention or belief that the promise would not be performed may not be established by or inferred from the fact alone that such promise was not performed. Such a finding may be based only upon evidence establishing that the facts and circumstances of the case are wholly consistent with guilty intent or belief and wholly inconsistent with innocent intent or belief and excluding to a moral certainty every hypothesis except that of the defendant`s intention or belief that the promise would not be performed. 
    • (e) By extortion. A person obtains property by extortion when he compels or induces another person to deliver such property to himself or to a third person by means of instilling in him a fear that, if the property is not so delivered, the actor or another will: 
      • (i) Cause physical injury to some person in the future; or
      • (ii) Cause damage to property; or 
      • (iii) Engage in other conduct constituting a crime; or 
      • (iv) Accuse some person of a crime or cause criminal charges to be instituted against him; or 
      • (v) Expose a secret or publicize an asserted fact, whether true or false, tending to subject some person to hatred, contempt or ridicule; or 
      • (vi) Cause a strike, boycott or other collective labor group action injurious to some person`s business; except that such a threat shall not be deemed extortion when the property is demanded or received for the benefit of the group in whose interest the actor purports to act; or 
      • (vii) Testify or provide information or withhold testimony or information with respect to another`s legal claim or defense; or 
      • (viii) Use or abuse his position as a public servant by performing some act within or related to his official duties, or by failing or refusing to perform an official duty, in such manner as to affect some person adversely; or 
      • (ix) Perform any other act which would not in itself materially benefit the actor, but which is calculated to harm another person materially with respect to his health, safety, business, calling, career, financial condition, reputation or personal relationships. 

There are several laws pertaining to larceny in New York:

  • § 155.25 – Petit Larceny
    • A person is guilty of petit larceny when he steals property.
  • § 155.30 – Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree
    • A person is guilty of grand larceny in the fourth degree when he steals property and when:
      • 1. The value of the property exceeds one thousand dollars; or
      • 2. The property consists of a public record, writing or instrument kept, filed or deposited according to law with or in the keeping of any public office or public servant; or
      • 3. The property consists of secret scientific material; or
      • 4. The property consists of a credit card or debit card; or
      • 5. The property, regardless of its nature and value, is taken from the person of another; or
      • 6. The property, regardless of its nature and value, is obtained by extortion; or
      • 7.  The property consists of one or more firearms, rifles or shotguns, as such terms are defined in section 265.00 of this chapter; or
      • 8. The value of the property exceeds one hundred dollars, and the property consists of a motor vehicle, as defined in section one hundred twenty-five of the vehicle and traffic law, other than a motorcycle, as defined in section one hundred twenty-three of such law; or
      • 9. The property consists of a scroll, religious vestment, a vessel, an item comprising a display of religious symbols which forms a representative expression of faith, or other miscellaneous item of property which:
        • (a) has a value of at least one hundred dollars; and
        • (b)  is kept for or used in connection with religious worship in any building, structure or upon the curtilage of such building or structure used as a place of religious worship by a religious corporation, as incorporated under the religious corporations law or the education law.
      • 10. The property consists of an access device which the person intends to use unlawfully to obtain telephone service.
      • 11. The property consists of anhydrous ammonia or liquified ammonia gas and the actor intends to use, or knows another person intends to use, such anhydrous ammonia or liquified ammonia gas to manufacture methamphetamine.
  • § 155.35 – Grand Larceny in the Third Degree
    • A person is guilty of grand larceny in the third degree when he or she steals property and:
      • 1. when the value of the property exceeds three thousand dollars, or
      • 2.  the property is an automated teller machine or the contents of an automated teller machine.
  • § 155.40 – Grand Larceny in the Second Degree
    • A person is guilty of grand larceny in the second degree when he steals property and when:
      • 1. The value of the property exceeds fifty thousand dollars; or
      • 2. The property, regardless of its nature and value, is obtained by extortion committed by instilling in the victim a fear that the actor or another person will 
        • (a) cause physical injury to some person in the future, or 
        • (b) cause damage to property, or 
        • (c) use or abuse his position as a public servant by engaging in conduct within or related to his official duties, or by failing or refusing to perform an official duty, in such manner as to affect some person adversely.
  • § 155.42 – Grand Larceny in the First Degree
    • A person is guilty of grand larceny in the first degree when he steals property and when the value of the property exceeds one million dollars.
  • § 155.43 – Aggravated Grand Larceny of an Automated Teller Machine
    • A person is guilty of aggravated grand larceny of an automated teller machine when he or she commits the crime of grand larceny in the third degree, as defined in subdivision two of section 155.35 of this article and has been previously convicted of grand larceny in the third degree within the previous five years.

Penalties for Federal Theft

The penalties for Federal theft charges can be severe. 

18 U.S. Code Chapter 31 – Embezzlement and Theft

  • § 664 – Theft or embezzlement from employee benefit plan
    • Fined under this title
    • Maximum five years in prison.
  • § 665 – Theft or embezzlement from employment and training funds; improper inducement; obstruction of investigation 
    • (a) 
      • Fine 
      • Maximum 2 years in prison
      • If the amount so embezzled, misapplied, stolen, or obtained by fraud does not exceed $1,000
        • Fine
        • Maximum 1 year in prison  
  • § 666 – Theft or bribery concerning programs receiving Federal funds
    • (a)
      • Fine 
      • Maximum 10 years in prison.
  • § 667 – Theft of livestock
      • Fine
      • Maximum 5 years in prison 
  • § 668 – Theft of major artwork
    • (b)
      • Fine
      • Maximum 10 years in prison 
  • § 669 – Theft or embezzlement in connection with health care
    • (a) 
      • Fine
      • Maximum 10 years
      • If the value of the property does not exceed the sum of $100
        • Fine
        • Maximum 1 year in prison  
  • § 670 – Theft of medical products
    • (a)
      • If the case is aggravated
        • Fine
        • Maximum 30 years in prison
      • If the value of the medical products involved in the offense is $5,000 or greater
        • Fine
        • Maximum 15 years in prison
        • If the offense is an aggravated offense
          • Maximum 20 years in prison
      • Any other case
        • Fine
        • Maximum 3 years in prison
        • If the case is an aggravated offense
          • Maximum 5 years in prison

Penalties for Theft in New York

New York takes larceny very seriously. While sentencing for some larceny crimes may seem rather mild, majority of the penalties are harsh with lengthy prison sentences. In a word, a larceny conviction could be life-altering.

  • § 155.25 – Petit Larceny
    • Class A Misdemeanor
      • Maximum 364 days in jail
      • Maximum $1,000 fine (or double the amount of the defendant’s gain from the crime)
  • § 155.30 – Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree
    • Class E Non-Violent Felony
      • Maximum 4 years in prison
      • Probation
  • § 155.35 – Grand Larceny in the Third Degree
    • Class D Non-Violent Felony
      • Maximum 7 years in prison
      • Probation
  • § 155.40 – Grand Larceny in the Second Degree
    • Class C Non-Violent Felony
      • Maximum 15 years in prison
  • § 155.42 – Grand Larceny in the First Degree
    • Class B Non-Violent Felony
      • Minimum 1 year in prison
      • Maximum 25 years in prison
  • § 155.43 – Aggravated Grand Larceny of an Automated Teller Machine
    • Class C Non-Violent Felony
      • Maximum 15 years in prison
      • Probation

Defenses for Theft

There are two statutory defenses for larceny in New York:

§ 155.15 Larceny; defenses

  • 1. In any prosecution for larceny committed by trespassory taking or embezzlement, it is an affirmative defense that the property was appropriated under a claim of right made in good faith.
  • 2. In any prosecution for larceny by extortion committed by instilling in the victim a fear that he or another person would be charged with a crime, it is an affirmative defense that the defendant reasonably believed the threatened charge to be true and that his sole purpose was to compel or induce the victim to take reasonable action to make good the wrong which was the subject of such threatened charge.

Other defenses that your attorney may use include:

  • No intent
  • Had consent
  • Wrongfully accused
  • Mistaken identity
  • Insufficient evidence
  • Violation of Constitutional rights
  • Error or illegal acquisition of evidence
  • Discredit the witness
  • The statute of limitations has expired (5 years for most charges but in some cases, 2 years)

Larceny and theft are serious charges at both the federal level and state level. The bottom line is you could spend quite a few years in prison if you are found guilty. A conviction could affect your life for years, likely the rest of your life. If you are facing larceny charges in New York or Federal theft charges, you need an attorney who has the knowledge, experience, and skills to help you. You need an attorney who is willing to fight for you in court.

Call the Litvak Law Firm at 718-989-2908. Your first phone consultation is free. If you have been charged with the crime of larceny or theft, don’t try to go it alone. Get professional representation right away. Call today, get ahead of the game, and protect yourself.