Shoplifiting Civil Demands under N.Y. General Obligations Law §11-105

Posted By Galluzzo & Arnone LLP || 12-Nov-2012

First-time offenders arrested for shoplifting at large department stores in New York (such as Sak’s Fifth Avenue, Century 21, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, or Uniqlo) typically receive Desk Appearance Tickets, or DATS, from the police. (For more on shoplifting and petit larceny arrests, click here and here.). However, many shoplifting defendants also soon receive letters from lawyers representing the stores containing civil demands for financial settlements pursuant to New York General Obligations Law §11-105.

Stores actually do have the right to pursue civil claims for monetary damages against shoplifting defendants, even in cases in which the property was recovered and undamaged. General Obligations Law §11-105 explains thusly:

	§ 11-105. Larceny in mercantile establishments. 1. When used in this
	 section, the term "mercantile establishment" shall mean a place
	 or vehicle where goods, wares or merchandise are offered for sale or a
	 place or vehicle from which deliveries of goods, wares or merchandise
	 are made. 2. When used in this section, the term "larceny" is
	 an act heretofore defined or known as common law larceny by trespassory
	 taking as defined in paragraph (a) of subdivision two of section 155.05
	 of the penal law committed against the property of a mercantile establishment.
	 3. When used in this section, the term "emancipated minor" shall
	 mean a person who was over the age of sixteen at the time of the alleged
	 larceny and who was no longer a dependent of or in the custody of a parent
	 or legal guardian. 4. In any proceeding brought under this section the
	 burden of proof shall be by a preponderance of the evidence. 5. An adult
	 or emancipated minor who commits larceny against the property of a mercantile
	 establishment shall be civilly liable to the operator of such establishment
	 in an amount consisting of: (a) the retail price of the merchandise if
	 not recovered in merchantable condition up to an amount not to exceed
	 fifteen hundred dollars; plus (b) a penalty not to exceed the greater
	 of five times the retail price of the merchandise or seventy-five dollars;
	 provided, however, that in no event shall such penalty exceed five hundred
	 dollars. 6. Parents or legal guardians of an unemancipated minor shall
	 be civilly liable for said minor who commits larceny against the property
	 of a mercantile establishment to the operator of such establishment in
	 an amount consisting of: (a) the retail price of the merchandise if not
	 recovered in merchantable condition up to an amount not to exceed fifteen
	 hundred dollars; plus (b) a penalty not to exceed the greater of five
	 times the retail price of the merchandise or seventy-five dollars; provided,
	 however, that in no event shall such penalty exceed five hundred dollars.
	 7. A conviction or a plea of guilty for committing larceny is not a prerequisite
	 to the bringing of a civil suit, obtaining a judgment, or collecting that
	 judgment under this section. 8. The fact that an operator of a mercantile
	 establishment may bring an action against an individual as provided in
	 this section shall not limit the right of such merchant to demand, orally
	 or in writing, that a person who is liable for damages and penalties under
	 this section remit the damages and penalties prior to the commencement
	 of any legal action. 9. In any action brought under subdivision six of
	 this section, the court shall consider in the interest of justice mitigating
	 circumstances that bear directly upon the actions of the parent or legal
	 guardian in supervising the unemancipated minor who committed the larceny.
	 10. An action for recovery of damages and penalties under this section
	 may be brought in any court of competent jurisdiction. 11. The provisions
	 of this section shall not be construed to prohibit or limit any other
	 cause of action which an operator of a mercantile establishment may have
	 against a person who unlawfully takes merchandise from the mercantile
	 establishment. 12. Any testimony or statements of the defendant or unemancipated
	 minor child of the defendant or any evidence derived from an attempt to
	 reach a civil settlement or from a civil proceeding brought under this
	 section shall be inadmissible in any other court proceeding relating to
	 such larceny.

As explained above, even in cases in which the merchandise is recovered (which is usually the case for people arrested for shoplifting), the store can demand either five times the value of the stolen merchandise (up to $500), or $75. Sometimes the civil penalties can be reduced through negotiation, or an arrested person can ignore the demand and risk being sued in civil court.

If you or a loved one have been arrested for shoplifting, you should strongly consider retaining anexperienced criminal defense attorney. A good lawyer can minimize your headaches – both civil and criminal – and maybe even prevent you from receiving a permanent criminal record.

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