Grand Larceny & Petit Larceny: Differing Criminal Theories of the Same Crime & Your Criminal Defense

As a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and as a NY criminal defense attorney I have handled too many crimes relating to Petit and Grand Larceny than I can count. As a prosecutor I supervised, among other cases, the investigations and prosecutions of a multi-million dollar “pump and dump” stock scheme in conjunction with the SEC and a multi-million dollar extortion attempt of an NBA All-Star. Over the past few months I successfully represented clients in two separate Grand Larceny cases. In one, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office charged my client with a “B” felony for allegedly “stealing” approximately $5,000,000 dollars of city and state taxes (including penalties). The District Attorney’s Office charged my other client with a “D” felony for allegedly stealing in the neighborhood of $25,000 in property from multiple people. Despite the significant amount of alleged theft, neither of my clients went to jail or prison as a result of their conduct. One of their dispositions even included an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD) despite an admission by the client as to the alleged criminal activity. While we at Crotty Saland PC can’t guarantee any particular result in a criminal matter, we can certainly guarantee that we will work tirelessly on each case so that we give you the best opportunity to get you where you want, and need, to be.

While there are many good criminal defense attorneys, it is important that your criminal defense attorney will not only travel down any ethical and legal road on your behalf, but is familiar with the nuances of the statute or statutes you are charged with. That being said, we are going to address those nuances of the statutes relating to Larceny.

Generally, pursuant to Penal Law ´ŻĄ155.05, “larceny occurs when, with intent to deprive another of property or to appropriate the same to himself or a third person, he wrongfully takes, obtains or withholds such property from an owner” of that property. Larceny includes the wrongful taking in many different forms or theories. These can include theft by trespassory taking, trick, embezzlement, or false pretenses. Other theories prosecutors can follow to come after you include larceny by acquiring lost property, issuing a bad check, by giving a false promise or by extortion. Over the course of the next couple of months I will pepper the blog with entries about some of these different theories. Today, however, we will start with Larceny (Petit or Grand) by acquiring lost property.
Starting off with an awe inspiring quote from the Penal Law itself, “[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.”

The lesson here is clear. If you find something you should consider returning it! This has been the law for a long time. In fact, in 1912 an attorney held stolen property on behalf of his clients. His clients were seeking a ransom for the return of the property. Unfortunately, the attorney decided to hold the stolen property so that the ransom would be paid. Guess what…the jury convicted the attorney. See People v. O’Reilly, 153 A.D. 854 (1st Dept. 1912). A little more recently, New York County (Manhattan) Criminal Court denied a motion to dismiss and ruled that “one who withholds lost property seeking reward for its return commits larceny and criminal possession of stolen property.” People v. Dadon, 167 Misc.2d 628 (N.Y. Crim. Ct. 1996). The Court noted that “conditioning the return of the property on a reward where none has been offered does not constitute ‘reasonable measures’ to return the property to its owner. Accordingly, larceny and criminal possession of stolen property are committed when one withholds lost property seeking a reward for its return.”

In the event you find property and don’t return it or condition its return on a reward you may be going down a slippery slope. Whatever your situation, you should consult with the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Crotty Saland PC who can address how the law applies your specific circumstances and what is the best method to protect your rights and liberty.

Updated: