Manhattan, with all of its high-end luxury stores has been called the shoplifting capital of the nation. A shoplifting conviction in Manhattan, just like anywhere else in New York state, is considered a property crime and can have serious consequences. Getting caught shoplifting in Manhattan usually means being charged with a misdemeanor petit larceny when the amount stolen is under $1,000 and felony grand larceny with amounts over $1,000--that's just two Burberry scarves
Consequences for even a misdemeanor shoplifting conviction in Manhattan or anywhere within the confines of New York City can mean deportation for non-citizens and exclusion from various professions including law-enforcement, teaching and banking for everyone else. It can stop an aspiring career dead in its tracks.
A person's reputation, their ability to get a loan, to go to school, to remain in the country if they are not a citizen, their ability to obtain and retain professional licenses and their ability to work can be severely compromised by a shoplifting conviction.
The last thing anyone already in their profession or anyone with any professional goals needs on their record is a shoplifting conviction. Anyone with a shoplifting charge from Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens or Brooklyn who cares about their future should contact an experienced NYC shoplifting attorney before they go to court. Shoplifting cases must be handled correctly to avoid any future problems. There are pitfalls to the inexperienced attorney with a shoplifting case with a person who must keep their record spotless.
One trap many new attorneys fall into with a shoplifting case is that they tell their client to take the prosecutor's offer of a reduction to a CPL 240.20 (disorderly conduct). they tell their client that the 240.20 is not a crime, that it is just a violation and that record will be "sealed." turns out that what the person thought would be sealed was only partially sealed and the reason they don't understand the difference between a full seal and a partial seal is because their lawyer did not explain it to them because they also did not understand the difference.
It is true that the 240.20 disorderly conductis a violation and not a crime. In contrast, the shoplifting misdemeanor under Penal Law 155.25 (Petit Larceny) is indeed a crime and a person who pleads guilty to shoplifting will have a criminal record for at least ten years. Although a person who plea bargains down to a disorderly conduct will not have a criminal record, the court file will still be forever open and available to background checkers who will be able to see that the person was originally arrested for shoplifting but pleaded down to a violation. Although, technically the person does not have a criminal record and has not been convicted of a crime, the fact that the case file is open to the public and to background checkers could wreak havoc with one's employment and educational goals.
In most cases, persons caught one time for shoplifting do not have to plead guilty to a 240.20 to avoid having a criminal record. Luckily, the various prosecutors in the Bronx, Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn DA offices have policies that allow people with otherwise clean records who are accused of shoplifting under certain dollar amounts to keep their records clean.
These policies require the person to consent to an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal under CPL 170.55 ("ACD"), taking a one-time anti-shoplifting class and then maybe doing some community service work and agreeing to stay out of trouble for six months. Talk to your lawyer about how to get this disposition. Sometimes, the prosecutors, under certain circumstances, will even allow people to get their charges dismissed earlier than the normal 6-month ACD adjournment time and waive the community service and class.
ACD's are great for most people, but it is important to note that for some people, notably those in the financial services, an ACD might be harmful to one's career, (see below.) Again, talk to an experienced criminal defense lawyer about your particular circumstances. Get a lawyer who is familiar with shoplifting in NYC and who has worked with NYC prosecutors on shoplifting cases. With the right legal representation and when an ACD could create career issues sometimes the prosecutors assigned to the case or their superiors will consent to outright dismissals in the interest of justice.
Remember that employers and schools view theft convictions harshly and that criminal convictions in New York State-including anywhere in New York city--remain on one's record for at least ten years. There is never any expungement of anyone's criminal court record in New York and a shoplifting conviction cannot be sealed for at least ten years. That means that a conviction for theft in New York will be available for background checkers to see for at least ten years. And unmlike the disorderly condcut conviction which the background checker will likely have to go to the courthouse to see, all a potential employer needs to do to see a misdemeanor shoplifting conviction is run an OCA background check. The shoplifting conviction will pop up for at ten years. Then, after ten years it will still be there unless the person with the conviction files a motion to get the record sealed and the court grants the motion.
The moral here is that anyone caught shoplifting here in Manhattan or the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn or Staten Island should try to get the best shoplifting lawyer they can before going to court. Frequently people who have been represented by other criminal defense lawyers will call me the day after they have entered a guilty plea expressing remorse over entering the plea. I have to tell them that they called me too late and that there is nothing that I can do now. Guilty pleas in New York City Criminal Court can almost never be withdrawn so people should never enter one unless they are 100 percent sure that is what they want to do.
But the fact that the ACD is available does not mean that everyone is entitled to get caught shoplifting once without needing to worry about the consequence. Even shoplifting arrests without convictions can have substantial consequences. For example, employees of the NYC Department of Education must report all arrests, including shoplifting arrests, in writing to the Office of Personnel Investigations, they may also have to notify their school administrator and their UFT representative. In fact, many government employees are obligated to report any arrest to their superiors.
Moreover, things can get very tricky for those in the financial services. An ACD might not be a solution for anyone currently working in or contemplating a career in financial services. These people may find their career in jeopardy with the ACD since many financial institutions have to abide by FDIC regulations and Section 19 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act (FDIA), states that the FDIA
“prohibits, without the prior written consent of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), a person convicted of any criminal offense involving dishonesty or breach of trust or money laundering (covered offenses), or who has agreed to enter into a pretrial diversion or similar program in connection with a prosecution for such offense, from becoming or continuing as an institution-affiliated party, owning or controlling, directly or indirectly an insured depository institution (insured institution), or otherwise participating, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of the affairs of the insured institution. In addition, the law forbids an insured institution from permitting such a person to engage in any conduct or to continue any relationship prohibited by section 19.”
Although the above paragraph talks of persons "convicted" and not just arrested. It is important to note that the FDIC treats people who have agreed to enter a "pretrial diversion program" the same as those who have been convicted. Several years ago there was a Federal Court Decision in New York which held that that an ACD was tantamount to a pre-trial services program. This means that persons who receive an ACD for shoplifting might put their financial careers in worse jeopardy then a person who simply pleaded their shoplifting charge down to a disorderly conduct charge.
For persons in the financial industry charged with shoplifting, it is important to discuss their FDIC concerns with their attorney. An experienced shoplifting attorney might be able to convince the prosecutors to fashion a dismissal of the shoplifting charge without having the dismissal fall under the ACD provision of CPL 170.55. That should lessen the risk of incurring the wrath of the FDIC.
the bottom line is that a shoplifting arrest in New York City whether it is in Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn or Staten Island should be taken very seriously and people are wise to seek out the best lawyer that they can afford BEFORE they go to court. Call me at 212-786-2999 BEFORE you plead guilty if you have any questions about your NYC shoplifting charge.