Grand Larceny in New York City – Types, Defenses and Sentencing

What is Larceny

Grand larceny in New York City is defined by Penal Law § 155.05 as stealing  property when a person, with intent to deprive another of property or to appropriate the same to himself or to a third person, wrongfully takes, obtains or withholds such property from an owner.

The definition above provides the essential elements of the crime of larceny, and each element has to be proved by the prosecutor beyond reasonable doubt.  A competent grand larceny lawyer in New York City will help you identify which element is difficult to prove or has some reasonable doubt, which can give you leverage in negotiating the reduction of the felony’s class or going through trial and dismissing the charge altogether. In essence, the elements are:

    1. The wrongful taking, obtaining, or withholding;
        • There are five types of unlawful taking:
          1. trespassory taking, which is obtaining property by trick, embezzlement or false pretenses;
          2. acquiring lost property;
          3. committing the crime of issuing a bad check;
          4. false promise; or
          5. extortion.
    2. Of someone else’s property;
      • Property taken must not be of the taker’s. Exception: Larceny can still be committed in a co-ownership relationship by a co-owner if the lawful possessor is another co-owner.
      • Property means money, personal property, real property, computer data, computer program, thing in action, or evidence of debt, or contract, or any article, substance or thing of value, including gas, steam, water, or electricity, which is provided for a charge or compensation.
    3. With the intent to either deprive the owner OR to take the property for himself or someone else;
      • Intent requires evidence of an overt act to prove one’s state of mind at the time of commission of the crime.
      • Owner includes a person who has the right to possession superior to that of taker. Example: Larceny is still committed when a person takes property from someone who is not the owner but has lawfully borrowed the property from the owner.
    4. For an extended period or indefinitely.

    Types of Larceny

    Generally speaking, most types of larceny charges depend on the value of the property taken. For ease of reference, a table is shown below to explain the different types of larceny:

    Type Class Value of Property Penalty
    Petit Larceny Misdemeanor $1,000 or less Imprisonment not exceeding 1 year + fine not exceeding $1000
    Grand Larceny in 4th degree Class E $1,001 to $3,000 Imprisonment not exceeding 4 years + fine of not greater than $5000 or double the amount of offender’s gain from theft
    Grand Larceny in 3rd degree Class D $3,001 to $50,000 Imprisonment not exceeding 7 years + fine of not greater than $5000 or double the amount of offender’s gain from theft
    Grand Larceny in 2nd degree Class C $50,001 to $1,000,000 Imprisonment not exceeding 15 years + fine not exceeding $15,000
    Grand Larceny in 1st degree Class B More than $1,000,000 Imprisonment not exceeding 25 years _ fine of not grater than $30,000

    The range of penalty is also dependent on whether one is a first-time offender or a predicate felon. A predicate felon is someone who has been previously convicted of a felony within the last 10 years.

    Larceny is commonly charged with other offenses, such as:  criminal possession of stolen property; robbery; burglary; assault; criminal possession of a forged instrument; and identity theft.

    Affirmative Defenses to Grand Larceny in New York City

    Affirmative defenses are defenses raised by a defendant, which if proven, defeats or mitigates the allegation of unlawful conduct. In larceny, the affirmative defense need not be proven beyond reasonable doubt, but only by preponderance of evidence, which means the claim is more likely than not likely, or in other words, the evidence shows that the affirmative defense is 51% likely to be true.

    An affirmative defense to larceny by trespass (which is the wrongful taking of assets) or embezzlement is that the taker appropriated the property under a claim of right made in good faith. For example, if the taker had reason to believe in good faith that he was the owner of the property, or that such property was entrusted to him by the owner, it is an affirmative defense to larceny.

    An affirmative defense to larceny by extortion, on the other hand, is that the taker had reason to believe that the threatened charge was true and his sole purpose was to compel or induce the victim to take reasonable action to make good the wrong which was the subject of such threatened charge.

    Other Defenses to Grand Larceny in New York City

    As with any crime, a good grand larceny defense lawyer in New York City will develop a legal strategy depending on the relative strength or weakness of the evidence in the case on the elements of the crime, the background of the accused, and the allegations in the complaint.

    Value is normally a point of contention because the value of the property taken will determine the class of felony to be charged. Generally, value refers to the market value at the time and place of the crime. If this cannot be determined, then it is calculated using the cost of replacement within a reasonable time after the crime. If the value cannot still be reasonably ascertained, it will be considered less than $250.


    For first time offenders of grand larceny in the 4th, 3rd, and 2nd degrees, there is no minimum mandatory sentence for the first-time offender. Probation can be an alternative sentence.

    For grand larceny in the 4th degree, although jail and prison are possible sentences, the court has a lot of discretion to assign a different sentence for this level of felony, such as probation, community service, fine, restitution, or conditional discharge, especially if the first-time offender demonstrates good character and mitigating circumstances.

    For grand larceny in the 3rd degree, upon conviction, a first-time offender can receive probation, a definite sentence of one year or less, or shock probation / split sentence (which is some jail time and some probation and community service).

    For grand larceny in the 2nd degree, probation and conditional discharge are still alternative sentences for the first-time offender.

    For grand larceny in the 1st degree, the minimum mandatory sentence for the first-time offender, upon conviction, is one to three years in state prison.

    Other Legal Strategies

    For petit larceny, a good lawyer may be able to get a non-criminal outcome such as Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD) and Disorderly Conduct (which is a violation and not a crime).

    In grand larceny charges in the 4th and 3rd degrees, especially when evidence of the guilt is strong, an experienced lawyer can propose drug diversion as an alternative. Drug diversion allows the first-time offender to avoid jail or probation by getting drug or alcohol treatment. If evidence of guilt is not strong, a good grand larceny lawyer can plea bargain the charge to petit larceny (which may carry a non-criminal outcome of ACD and disorderly conduct).

    At all times, one’s constitutional rights, regardless of the crime alleged, should always be respected. This includes being read the Miranda rights when one is taken into police custody for interrogation, or ensuring the search warrants used were not defective.

    Grand larceny charges are crimes involving moral turpitude. This will appear in one’s criminal record, and for immigrants, can lead to deportation. For this reason, it is important to find a good, competent grand larceny lawyer who can help defend your rights.

    A grand larceny lawyer in New York City will help you with your defenses in order to dismiss the charge, reduce the punishment for the crime charged, or depending on the charge, reduce the crime from felony to a misdemeanor.

    If you are looking for a grand larceny lawyer in NY, we at the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin are here for you. We can be reached at 212-233-1233. 

Attorney Albert Goodwin

Law Offices of
Albert Goodwin, PLLC
31 W 34 Str, Suite 7058
New York, NY 10001
[email protected]