Petit Larceny ("Shoplifting") Desk Appearance Tickets

One of the most common desk appearance ticket accusations in New York is petit larceny, the most common form of which is commonly referred to as shoplifting. As with most other desk appearance ticket (dat) situations, the fact that someone has received a dat in the first place is a fairly good predictor in itself that there will be options available for someone who isn't enthusiastic about wanting to have her day in Court at a trial. 

Take a Deep Breath.  Try to Relax.  

Perhaps more than any other type of case, shoplifting cases tend to be the sorts of cases where people who have never been caught up in the criminal justice system and who never will again, find themselves. Therefore, it has been my experience that people accused of petit larceny (shoplifting) tend to be quite anxious, losing sleep, and terrified about what will come - frequently more anxious than clients accused of serious felony matters.  

While at one level the anxiety is good because it focuses attention on the problem and means that the person will take it seriously enough to ensure that it is handled properly, sometimes the anxiety can get in the way as well.

Don't start packing for Rikers Island.  Even if you think you are guilty and you have no defense, you have to realize that the Court and the prosecutors are likely to be receptive to merciful settlement of your case after discussions with your lawyer.  Even if the Court and the prosecutor believe you are 100 percent guilty, your lawyer may well be able to persuade them to be merciful enough to allow the case to be resolved in a way that ultimately leads to its dismissal, in recognition of your lack of history and the unlikelihood that you will ever be back.

The opposite, and equally unreasonable response to a DAT for petit larceny is to assume that the matter is so small and silly that it isn't worth bothering about. The thinking is to rely on the nice police officer's legal advice just to show up in Court and hope for the best because it will just be dismissed. If you are tempted to take this legal advice from the non lawyer who arrested you, take this quick quiz now.  

Just remember that while there are plenty of positive outcomes possible to be sure, you are being charged with a crime.  You are being sent to Criminal Court.  If being accused of a crime and being ordered to appear in New York City Criminal Court seems like the sort of situation you should simply show up for without preparation or representation and hope for the best because what could possibly go wrong for you in New York City Criminal Court, then you probably ought to reevaluate.

Yes, There are Some Subtleties to This

While to be sure a petit larceny DAT is not going to involve, in all likelihood, 100 hours of legal research for esoteric motion practice or all night preparation for a tense six hour cross examination of a hard boiled homicide detective, there actually are some subtleties here.  Having the advice of a lawyer to rule out or address increasingly common sorts of "collateral"  issues is valuable and could potentially save you substantial money and grief in the future trying to undo something unwisely and rashly done. There are a variety of collateral issues of these accusations that can influence areas of your life outside the criminal case.  Employment, immigration, security clearances, background checks, student loans, and other issues can be implicated and should be ruled out before you resolve the case.

Read about some of the common lies told to people accused of shoplifting nearly every step of the way.

We have a separate site dedicated to New York City petit larceny (shoplifting) cases. Visit for more in depth treatment of this subject. Or call now to make an appointment for your free, calm, non scaremongering office consultation. 


Don Murray is one of the founding partners of Shalley & Murray, a New York criminal defense law firm with offices in New York City and Westchester County. Mr. Murray is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He has been practicing criminal defense in New York for more than 20 years. Any questions or comments about this article or seeking representation on a Desk Appearance Ticket can be directed to him directly at 718-268-2171.