According to New York statutes, shoplifting may be petit larceny or larceny. The primary differences between the two are in the value of the items taken and the penalties that arise as a result of a conviction.

There is also a statute that allows retail companies to file civil lawsuits against people they believe to have shoplifted and collect payment for the items allegedly stolen and punitive fees. A retailer may win a judgment in civil court even if there no conviction or guilty plea in criminal court.

Larceny statute

For a larceny conviction, there must be evidence that someone illegally takes property from the person or entity that owns it. There must also be evidence that the person has obtained and is withholding the property with the specific intent to keep it from the owner.

The conviction is a class A misdemeanor if the value of the property is no more than $1,000, but if the value exceeds $1,000, then the conviction is a felony.

Larceny in mercantile establishments

When a person commits larceny against a retail store, the law states that the company can hold him or her liable for the cost of the merchandise if the store does not recover the merchandise in a salable condition, up to an amount of $1,500. The store can also require the person to pay a penalty of $75 or five times the cost of the item, up to $500.

The retail establishment does not have to wait until criminal charges come against the person to bring the action to court, and the burden of proof needs only to show that there is at least a 51% chance that the person committed larceny.

If the company wins a judgment in court, the outcome does not necessarily affect a criminal case, however. The prosecutor cannot use statements, testimony and evidence that helped to win the civil suit as evidence in the criminal case.