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December 1, 2009

New York Shoplifting

By Michael H. Joseph

As a New York and White Plains Criminal Defense Lawyer, we see alot of cases involving petit larceny charges arising out of shoplifting. For a first time offender, we have had tremendous success in getting shoplifting charges dramatically reduced and in many cases resolved with adjournments in contemplation of dismissal.

However, we are starting to see a new trend where major department stores are writing threatening letters to our clients. They claim to be entitled to outrageous amounts of money because a person shop lifted in their store. This is probably due to the bad economy and stores looking to make money any way they can.

These stores are justifying their demands on the General Obligations Law 11-105. This law states as follows:

An adult or emancipated minor who commits larceny against the property of a mercantile establishment shall be civilly liable to the operator of such establishment in an amount consisting of:

(a) the retail price of the merchandise if not recovered in merchantable condition up to an amount not to exceed fifteen hundred dollars; plus (b) a penalty not to exceed the greater of five times the retail price of the merchandise or seventy-five dollars; provided, however, that in no event shall such penalty exceed five hundred dollars.

The statute also makes a parent liable for the acts of a child.

The important thing to remember is this only gives the store the right to sue if the property is not recovered. In most cases, the property is recovered. Also, usually it is not worth it for the store to pay the court costs involved and spend time litigating, so they just send threatening letters and hope to scare the persons accused of shoplifting. This is a growing trend and we have seen stores in White Plains, Queens, Manhattan, Port Chester and the Bronx sending these letters. Our advise generally is to ignore them until you actually get Court papers served upon you. Otherwise the stores are usually bluffing.

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