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NY Shoplifting Crimes: Avoiding Visa Complications and Warrants

As New York criminal defense attorneys and former Manhattan prosecutors representing clients in a variety of crimes, it is fairly common for our lawyers to handle cases for arrests in New York City where the accused is a foreign national. Routinely our criminal defense lawyers are asked, “I was arrested for shoplifting in Manhattan, what will happen to my H-1B visa?” Other times there is a frightened inquiry where a client asks, “I am visiting New York for pleasure and I was arrested for PL 155.25, will my B-1 visa be cancelled?” Far from atypical, because NYU, Columbia University, Pace, Fordham and many other great colleges and universities are located in New York City, when a student with an F-1 visa is arrested for PL 165.40 or receives a Desk Appearance Ticket in Brooklyn, Queens or anywhere else, the question we are asked is “will I be kicked out of school, will my F-1 be revoked…what is going to happen if I leave during spring break and can’t make my court date?”

Whatever the question and however it is posed, foreign nationals in the United States with a B-1 visa, B-2 visa, G visa, H-1A visa, H-1C visa, I visa, J-1 visa, J-2 visa, K visa, QN visa or any other visa have legitimate concerns for shoplifting arrests. Whether you are from The People’s Republic of China, Brazil, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Canada, or Australia is of no consequence. The crimes of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, Grand Larceny and Petit Larceny have crippling potential if not properly addressed and resolved.

Getting Out, but Not Getting Back Into the United States

One of the greatest concerns a foreign national in New York faces upon arrest or Desk Appearance Ticket for shoplifting is not being in the United States or New York City when they are required to return to court. The prosecution and court will not care if you had to return to Ireland, Italy, Japan, or Sweden because your holiday or vacation ended. Nor will it matter to law enforcement if you are a student returning home to France, Hungary, Mexico, India or South Korea. Miss your court date and there will be a Bench Warrant issued for your arrest.

Sure, you were able to leave the United States because your passport was not seized on a misdemeanor charge (it may be if you are charged with a felony), but in the event you miss your court date and a Bench Warrant is issued by a judge, when you return to JFK airport in Queens you should expect that you will be taken into custody and hauled off to jail. Fortunately, the law generally requires that you stand before the court within 24 hours.

Even assuming you did not miss your court date and no Bench Warrant was issued by a judge, will you have problems securing legal status to enter the United States as the case plays out? What will happen in the event visa or status lapsed during the pendency of the criminal case? All of these issues and questions are best addressed before you leave so they can properly be managed.

Crime of Moral Turpitude and other Shoplifting Concerns

Do not have the false sense of security that the arrest charge printed on your Desk Appearance Ticket for shoplifting reflects the one and only offense that you will actually face. In all likelihood, when you go to court and are arraigned before the judge you will face two crimes. These are Petit Larceny, New York Penal Law 155.25, and Fifth Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, New York Penal Law 165.40. Both PL 155.25 and PL 165.40 are misdemeanor crimes. Sure, they carry a sentence of up to one year in jail, but that is not a likely outcome. The more immediate issue or concern is that both NY PL 165.40 and NY PL 155.25 are likely Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude or CIMT offenses. Even worse, in the event you are arrested for a felony crime because the value of the property from Saks Fifth Avenue, Century 21, or Macys exceeds $1,000.00 or $3,000.00, the crimes you will face in a New York court are Fourth Degree Grand Larceny, New York Penal Law 155.30, and Third Degree Grand Larceny, New York Penal Law 155.35. Similarly, just like their misdemeanor counterparts, prosecutors or a Grand Jury can also charge you with Fourth Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, New York Penal Law 165.45, and Third Degree Grand Larceny, New York Penal Law 165.50, respectively.

Experience, Knowledge and Advocacy can Work for You

Whether you are going to be in the United States or New York or you are returning home after getting released from the police or court, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your future in the United States. If the police department gives you a New York City Desk Appearance Ticket but you know you will no longer be in school, working or visiting New York, there is a means by which your criminal defense attorney can potentially appear on your behalf and in your absence. Alternatively, the case can possibly be advanced. Even if you are required to complete some form of community service, the court and prosecution may allow you to do so in your home country if you address this issue with your counsel before your appearance.

In the event you are not given a Desk Appearance Ticket on a misdemeanor charge or a felony arrest, then you must have counsel at your arraignment. At that point your criminal attorney can make all necessary arguments based on what you provided him or her before stepping inside the courtroom. Armed with this information your criminal lawyer will ask a judge to consider little or no bail and release you. Nobody wants to spend time in jail, especially in a foreign country. Fighting a case from the “outside” is a much better place to be.

Take the Steps to Help Yourself

Because no case is the same and the pieces of your puzzle are quite different than any other case, it is incumbent upon you to take the steps to protect yourself. If you are leaving in three days, contact a lawyer. If you have already returned to your home, find the attorney who can work with you while you are overseas and he or she is in New York. The worst thing you can do is flee, fail to return or risk a warrant. It may be that you can resolve your case with an ACD (six month dismissal) or Disorderly Conduct (New York Penal Law 240.20). It could very well be that you decided to exonerate yourself and fight the case through to the end. In some cases, prosecutors may agree to an early sealing if you have immigration issues in the immediate future. Regardless, prepare yourself with the assistance of your counsel so that he or she can best advocate for you.

Before panicking, know that as bad as it seems it could be worse. With the right steps, education and experience counsel, it can get better. The criminal defense lawyers and former Assistant District Attorneys at Saland Law have each handled dozens if not hundreds of shoplifting cases throughout their respective careers and have lectured to consular staff of numerous nations from Canada and Australia to Brazil and Britain. Whatever the right resolution of your case may be, take action, educate yourself, review all of the resources available to you on our websites and call our attorneys any time day or night to begin your defense.

Call the New York Shoplifting Lawyers at Saland Law at 212.312.7129 or Contact Us Online to Start Your Criminal Defense Now

Client Reviews
From the moment I contacted Jeremy Saland he inspired trust and confidence. His honesty and extensive knowledge about the court process made me feel like I was in good hands. He helped make a stressful and difficult experience more manageable and tolerable by clearly informing me on the legal steps we had to take and knowing exactly what to expect for our day in court. Thank you for your professionalism and help Jeremy! I will be eternally grateful. Alexandra
I was arrested and charged with Grand Larceny. I was filmed on surveillance camera and the police was trying to find me for several days. Although I had to spend the night in prison/ tombs he was able to set me free the next morning without bail. A court date was set for August but he was able to negotiate with the DA and after only three weeks I had to appear before court, pay a restitution fine and was sentenced with an ACD for a period of 6 months. Alex
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