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What is petit larceny and what defenses could a defendant use?

Being accused of a criminal charge, no matter the severity, is likely to impact the life of the accused offender. While a felony charge is likely to result in severe and harsh penalties, a misdemeanor carries with it consequences that could tarnish an individual's personal and professional reputation. Thus, even when a defendant is suspected of a misdemeanor, it is important to understand the elements of the crime and what defense options are available.

What is petit larceny and what defenses could a defendant use? According to Article 155 of the New York Penal Law, larceny is defined as a person stealing property or when a person, with the intent to deprive another of property or to appropriate the property to himself, herself or a third party. It is also defined as when a person wrongfully takes, obtains or withholds the property of another.

On the other hand, a person is guilty of petit larceny if he or she steals property. This is considered a class A misdemeanor; however, the statute doesn't describe the type of property or the thresholds regarding the value of the stolen property.

While misdemeanors are more serious than infractions, they are usually less severe than a felony. Typically, a misdemeanor is defined as a crime that is punishable for up to a year in jail. There is some flexibility when it comes to making a plea bargain to negotiate with and even when making defense against a misdemeanor charge.

According to this article, there is no defense for larceny if the act is committed through mean of extortion or an attempt to. However, if the charge was based on trespassory taking or embezzlement, it is an affirmative defense claiming that the property was appropriated in good faith.

Because even a petit larceny charge could result in serious penalties, such as jail time, it is imperative that defendants take proper steps to understand their defense options. This will ensure that their rights are protected and interests are served during the defense process.

Source: Ypdcrime.com, "Article 155 - NY Penal Law," accessed Jan. 7, 2017

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