In New York, a misdemeanor theft or larceny can easily be enhanced to a felony in certain circumstances. In fact, pursuant to New York Penal Law Section 155.30(5), Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, it is a felony punishable by up to four years in state prison if you perpetrate the crime commonly known as “Grand Larceny from the Person.”
Pursuant to New York Penal Law Section 155.30(5), Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree:
A person is guilty of this Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree when he or she steals property and that property, regardless of its nature and value, is taken from the person of another.
To be clear, if you take a one dollar bill or a ten thousand dollar ring, and you take that property from another’s person, you have likely committed the crime of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree. Although your actions may increase to Robbery if force or violence was used or to a higher level of Grand Larceny based on the value of the property, the mere taking of a property (for example, from a person’s hand or pocket) automatically makes the crime a felony.
It is important to note that your theft need not be from another’s hand, pocket, wrist, etc. In fact, prosecutors often charge this crime where a person’s bag, backpack or purse is stolen even if the victim is not wearing that purse. Pursuant to People v. Haynes, 91 N.Y.2d 966 (1998), if a person is touching a bag, purse or backpack and a defendant takes that property, then this crime has likely been committed. A little vague, a better way to look at this hypothetical is that if a person is sitting on the strap of their bag or leaning against it as it is hanging over the chair, a defendant can be charged with this crime if they take the bag away as the strap is pulled from underneath or on top of the victim. It is important to note that the taking need not be violent or forceful. In fact, the vicimt might not know of the theft as the item is pulled away.
Obviously, whether or not one has committed the crime of Grand Larceny in the 4th Degree pursuant to New York Penal Law 155.30(5) hinges on the circumstances of the case. While not a substitute for legal analysis on a specific set of facts, the above description should give you a general understanding of the law.
Crotty Saland PC is a New York based criminal defense firm founded by former Manhattan prosecutors.