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Zoey_ JD
Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 25954
Experience:  Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
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Charged with Petit Larceny for shoplifting by accident

Customer Question

A friend of mine had gone to sears in Queens NY and accidentally she forgot to keep the items she picked up back and just walked out. It was a pure accident not having realized that she didn't put the items back. Sears reps called the police and they took him to the police station took his finger prints and issued a Desk Appearance Ticket with Top Offense charged: PL 155.25 . He has to appear in the court and wondering what his response should be on the date of his hearing? It was a pure accident. Should he plead not guilty ? This is the first time something like this ever happened to him. What will be the consequences?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 2 years ago.
your friend should plead not guilty when he is arraigned on the charge because that is what all criminal defendants are supposed to do at their arraignment. From there the DA assigned to the case will make your friend a plea offer. In my experience, the offer will be for a plea to something like Trespass or Disorderly Conduct, either of which will be a violation and not a crime. The sentence will be a fine or a conditional discharge (go home, stay out of trouble for a year).
If he wanted that plea he could get rid of this case without pleading guilty to a misdemeanor and he would therefore avoid having a misdemeanor on her record. The plea to the violation would seal upon payment of the fine or upon her successfully remaining out of trouble for a year, and then it would not appear on her record.
Of course, she could also fight the charges, but if she does that, she will need a lawyer. A Petit Larceny in NYS has a maximum possible penalty of a year of jail time, and if she loses at trial, she may face some jail and would have a criminal conviction to carry around all of her life.
So, the important thing is to start off by pleading not guilty and to remain in a not guilty position until the DA offers him a deal that he thinks is a good thing for him because it lets him walk away without a misdmeanor conviction. At that point, when the offer is made, he can let the judge know that he'll accept that deal and he can take back his plea of not guilty and enter a new plea to the violation.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
What does guilty mean in reality. He walked out with a merchandise out of the store since he blanked out and it was an accident . Does that mean he was guilty?Also, on the other hand what if he accepts being guilty. What are the consequences and will this affect his background check in future and immigration petition for permanent residency file?
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 2 years ago.
You didn't mention that there was an immigration issue here.
He cannot plead guilty to petit larceny, as that would be a crime of moral turpitude, nor can he admit to taking the property on the record. He can, however, plead guilty to a violation such as trespass or disorderly conduct, as I mentioned before.
He does not have to plead guilty to anything, of course. He can fight the case all the way to trial and his defense would be that he left without paying for the goods by mistake. However, if the finder of facts -- judge or jury -- doesn't believe that this is a mistake, he will lose at trial, he WILL have a misdemeanor theft offense on his record, and a potential problem with immigration when he seeks to become a permanent resident.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
How does this work out in the court? Will the judge just ask him if he was guilty or not guilty and he has to say : " Yes" but it was an accident ?
Does he need to appoint a lawyer in his first trial?
Also, what is the problem that we are talking about with immigration.
What are the possibilities if he accepts guilt?
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 2 years ago.
If he can afford a lawyer, he needs to have one with him on his first court date. If he cannot, his first court date will be his arraignment. The court will read the charges into the record and ask him how he pleads to the petit larceny. He should plead NOT GUILTY, as i have already indicated. Then he can tell the judge that he does not have the funds to hire a lawyer and ask for a public defender. The judge will then give him a new court date and he'll meet his lawyer then.
It's possible that the DA will offer him a plea of guilty to the violation at his arraignment, but given that he has immigration considerations, he ought to ask for a lawyer and make sure that any deal he gets is the best possible one for him.
I have already told you that larceny is a crime of moral turpitude and being convicted of that could put him in potential difficulty. If you want to explore the immigration issues, post a new question in our Immigration law cateogory and ask an Immigration lawyer.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
will someone from sears /police officer who gave him the DAT be there on the date of the first hearing?
what is the probability that there will be follow-up hearings if he said that this was an accident and what are the chances of him getting through this?
Also, what are the possible outcomes in all the different scenarios guilty/not guilty?
Is there a possibility to settle this through arbitrationon DAT is issued? my friend was asked to sign a document at the store. He signed it without reading it completely. Do you know what was it that he was asked to sign? Also, how can you find out the total retail price for the merchandise since the DAT doesnt state that.
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 2 years ago.
No. He will have to go to court. Charges have already been filed and he's been given a court date. Typically, what he signed is an agreement to stay out of that store from here on, or he will be arrested for trespassing. The letter may have also told him that he will be contacted about paying a civil fine.
The police officer wiill not have to appear in court until needed for hearings and trial. He will be in touch with the DA before the date and will turn over all of his paperwork to the DA. Eventually your friend's lawyer will get a copy of the police reports as part of the discovery process and can make your friend copies.
He will hear what the value of the property is when he is arraigned on the charges. That value will determine whether the charge is a misdemeanor or a felony. Under $1,000 is a misdemeanor in NYS.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
do you have to still pay the civil fine since you are going to the court?Also, can he never enter that store again at any location or any store in that mall location where the incident happened?Also, going back to my previous question will someone from sears be there at the time of the first hearing?And what are the common possibilities for first time offenders ?
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 2 years ago.
do you have to still pay the civil fine since you are going to the court?
-- Yes, unless you don't care about your credit rating.
Also, can he never enter that store again at any location or any store in that mall location where the incident happened?
-- He would only be blacklisted from the store where he shoplifted. He could go to the mall.
Also, going back to my previous question will someone from sears be there at the time of the first hearing?
-- No witnesses from the other side will have to be present until trial. The DA will be in touch with them outside of the courtroom.
And what are the common possibilities for first time offenders ?
-- I've already gone into that above. If your friend is charged with a misdemeanor, a reduction to a violation would be a typical plea offer. It could involve a fine, probation, community service or a conditional discharge. If the amount stolen total over $1,000, then the charge would be a felony, and it could be reduced to a misdemeanor for purposes of a disposition. The same possible penalties would be involved. Jail or prison is not usually an issue on a first arrest.