Petit Larceny (Shoplifting) Defense in New York

If you have been accused of petit larceny (often called "shoplifting")  in New York City, including Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Bronx, Nassau or Westchester Counties, then you may well be wondering how you find yourself in this situation.

Maybe it was an argument with your spouse.  Maybe you are experiencing some sort of trauma or major transition in your life.  Maybe you just had a bad day at work or school.  Maybe it was simply a misunderstanding that got out of control.  Whatever the reason, you now find yourself accused of shoplifting in New York City.  You are probably experiencing a variety emotions at this point.  Maybe you are embarrassed, afraid that you are going to get a criminal record, or lose your job, or worse.

Most likely, you have been given a Desk Appearance Ticket to appear about a month or so away.  Most likely you are fretting about this, and losing sleep over this.  You are online doing research and have discovered various unsatisfying or terrifying sites making all kinds of wild claims.

Relax.  Think.  Breathe.  As long as your situation is handled properly, the odds are you are going to be just fine.

This website is all about Petit Larceny and only about Petit Larceny, Section 155.25 of the New York Penal Code.  The content in this petit larceny website has been written and developed by criminal defense lawyer Don Murray, founding partner at the New York City Criminal Defense Law Firm Shalley and Murray.  

You will find no outlandish claims here.  You will find no terrifying images of jail cells or suggestions that you realistically are "looking at" one year at Rikers Island.  Here you will find calm, rational, accurate information, written by someone who knows what he is talking about.

Mr. Murray has more than 25 years criminal defense experience, has published numerous articles about the New York City Criminal Justice System, and has consulted as an expert on the New York City Criminal Justice system for various media productions, including most recently for the NBC television miniseries "The Slap."   Mr. Murray has never prosecuted anyone or put anyone in the position where you now find yourself.

So if you have had enough of being confused, showered with misinformation, and terrified in your search for information and help, click here to read on about what types of outcomes are realistically available for people accused of petit larceny in New York City. (Or use the menu on the left or up top to navigate to the articles that interest you most.)


Hi.  This is Don Murray.  I am a founding partner of the New York Criminal Defense law firm Shalley and Murray and the author of all of the free articles you will find on this site.  If, after you have read what interests you here, you would like to speak with me about your Petit Larceny (Shoplifting) case, please call me at 



Yes, You Do Need a Lawyer.

In your heart of hearts, you already know this but the You Need a Lawyer Page explains why.  In part, that is why you are on a site like this looking for information.  You need information.  You need guidance.  Lawyers provide information and guidance.  

You now find yourself in a world that you are likely unfamiliar with.  You are charged with a crime.  You are being ordered to appear in Criminal Court. This isn't a joke.  They aren't kidding.  If you don't show up to Court, they aren't going to forget about it because it is so minor and silly.  They will issue a warrant for your arrest and drag you into court in handcuffs.

For some reason, many NYPD officers are fond of telling people accused of shoplifting that they "don't need" lawyers and that all they need to do is show up and have Legal Aid take care of it.  Everything will be just great.

The "You Need a Lawyer" page discusses these issues and makes the case that yes, indeed, that little voice inside you is right, and you do need a lawyer.   It might not be the most serious case in the history of the Criminal Courts, and it might not require vast hours of legal research for your lawyer, but you do need the advice of a lawyer.  The only question is whether you will bring your own lawyer or whether you will qualify for a free lawyer from the pool of lawyers whose job it is to represent the poverty stricken.  Read more.


What is going to happen to me?


The outcomes page discusses some of the most common outcomes of petit larceny charges.  This page is more than simply a senselessly terrifying explanation of the maximum possible penalties.  Instead, the outcomes page reviews the realistic outcomes one might expect in the real world.  Of course there will be different answers for a variety of situations, and the outcome of any particular case can never be absolutely predicted, but the outcomes page will provide a pretty good idea of what most people can expect.  Sure, you will of course want the assistance of a lawyer to review your particular case, so that any irregularities can be accounted for and collateral consequences can be reviewed.  But this will give you a better idea of what to expect than simply being told (rather cruelly) that "you face one year in Rikers Island".  Read more.



Defenses to Petit Larceny (Shoplifting)


The defenses page discusses some of the most common issues related to defenses to petit larceny charges in New York and some of the most common misconceptions about petit larceny defense.  You may find yourself surprised by what you read.  Read more.



I Got a Letter Demanding Money?  Should I Pay it?

The civil penalty page discusses the New York State law that allows merchants to sue people they accuse of shoplifting in Civil Court for a maximum of $500.  Despite some fine and not so fine print, people occasionally believe that this demand for payment is somehow connected to the criminal case and that they are obligated to pay it.  Wrong!  Too small to be worth it on an individual basis, these actions are brought by lawfirms that are acting as collection agencies for vast numbers of these "lawsuits".  The civil penalty page discusses your options with respect to these annoying letters.  Read more.


Petit Larceny and Immigration?

The immigration page discusses some of the issues raised when a person who is not a citizen of the United States is accused of petit larceny.  Despite the seemingly minor nature of petit larceny, a conviction for the charge could create substantial problems, and in some cases lead to removal proceedings.  More often than not, however, satisfactory settlements of petit charges can be reached that will avoid significant immigration issues.  But there are some subtle issues that come into play.  For example, one of our favorite resolutions of petit larceny in New York is the Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD).  For the non-citizen in the middle of the interview process, this otherwise favorable result, could at least cause substantial delay in the proceedings while a less favorable resolution could cause no delay at all.  Read more.