Shoplifting Arrests at NYC Whole Foods

An arrest for shoplifting at a New York City Whole Foods in Manhattan or Brooklyn is a nightmare. There is simply no better way to describe the anxiety, anger, fear and confusion. Outside of the embarrassment of being taken from Whole Foods in handcuffs, processed with a Desk Appearance Ticket or DAT at the nearest precinct, charged with New York PL 155.25 or New York PL 165.40, and blocked from returning to Whole Foods for the foreseeable future, you now have to go to either Manhattan Criminal Court or Brooklyn Criminal Court to try to erase this stigma from your otherwise clean record. Any arrest for Petit Larceny or Criminal Possession of Stolen Property at Whole Foods for something as small as a bag of carrots and makeup to cleaning products and produce is both potentially life altering and career shattering.

The questions running through your mind are likely many. Why did the security guard take my picture and who will see it? Why did they stop me before I left the store? How come the manager didn’t just let me pay for the items? It was an honest mistake. Why was I arrested? The security officers were rude and degrading. How could they treat me that way? What is a trespass notice? How come I was asked to pay up to $500 as a fine? Will this all be on my permanent record?

The Legal Basics: Understanding the Law

There are likely too many scenarios to identify in a webpage and even if all of them could be addressed it is no substitute for the consultation you will have with your criminal lawyer. Whether you are the mother or nanny putting items in the bottom of the stroller, the college student using your back pack or own bag to hold some vegetables and oatmeal, the rushed parent forgetting to pay for a couple of items after being distracted on your cell phone or merely the “Average Joe or Joan” stopped before you ever left the store, New York Penal Law 155.25 and New York Penal Law 165.40 are the offenses and crimes you now face.

No, you do not have to leave Whole Foods to be stopped be security. No, it does not matter if the security officers yelled at you or were complete jerks. The criminal law is not based on personality and charisma. The reality of the criminal law is that it allows a person to be arrested even before they pass a cash registers and exit. The bottom line is if there is probable cause that you took property (food items) and did not intend to pay for them you will likely be arrested. Does an arrest mean you are guilty because some overly zealous security guard says so? Absolutely not. May you have defenses? 100%. There is nothing you can do after your arrest about what already transpired, but if you know the law, retain counsel and ascertain your best defense you can minimize or completely remove the exposure you face from both your shoplifting arrest and conviction.

Whole Foods: From Aggressive Security to the Revocation of Your Right to Return

It is important to understand that staff at Whole Foods are not government actors or members of law enforcement. As such, your rights are not the same. If there is an illegal search and seizure by the police, then there may be grounds to suppress your arrest and what was recovered. The same does not exist when a private actor commits these offenses. Whether they hollered at you, refused your request to call a family member or even prevented you from using the bathroom, your complaints may be valid, but the criminal law is not concerned, within reason, about what happened as you waited for the police to arrive. Simply, it is time to look forward to rid yourself of this potential criminal record.

Although not part of the prosecution you will face in criminal court, know that New York State allows a business to fine you for five times the value of the property taken not to exceed $500. This has nothing to do with your criminal case and can be levied even if you are acquitted or the case is dismissed. Further, the same goes for the trespass notice. Irrespective of the outcome of your shoplift arrest, Whole Foods can ban or bar you from returning for as long as they wish. Should you return and shop know that you can potentially be arrested for Trespassing and even worse, Burglary.

Protecting Your Criminal Record: From DAT to Dismissal

Ultimately, whether you are guilty as the “day is long” or your arrest was a product of overly aggressive security officers, the predicament you now face is the same. A conviction for either misdemeanor of Petit Larceny, PL 155.25, or Fifth Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, PL 165.40, is on the top of your mind. If you work in an industry regulated by the FDIC or FINRA or your legal status in this country is through a work visa, student visa, visitor’s visa or a green card, a clean criminal record is central to your ability to either continue to work in your profession or remain legally in the United States. In fact, if you are a visitor in the United States, not only do you have to contend with visa issues, but if you leave before your court date you must have an attorney appear on your behalf to avoid a warrant for your arrest.

As much as you should be concerned, know that this predicament, if handled properly, can be resolved to minimize your exposure whatever it may be. Whether there is grounds for dismissal on the merits, a six month adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACD), a non-criminal disorderly conduct or some other resolution because you have not committed a crime or you deserve the benefit of the doubt, know that with the right legal counsel you can achieve closure and move forward with your life.

Before resolving your criminal case whether by dismissal or something not as favorable, the police will likely issue you a Desk Appearance Ticket or DAT. Yes, this is an arrest. Yes, this arrest will likely appear on a background check until there is closure. However, unlike an ordinary arrest the police should have you out with a ticket to return to court in roughly two to five hours. While the DAT is not a charging document you should pay close attention to your return date. If you fail to return a warrant will be issued for your arrest. Therefore, if you know you will be unavailable because you live out of state our outside the country, do not wait to retain counsel. It may be possible to advance your case or have your attorney appear in your absence.

Remember, each shoplifting arrest at Whole Foods is unique. What items were allegedly stolen? Were all the items retrieved? How many items were allegedly taken and what was their aggregate value? Do you have any history at Whole Foods or elsewhere? Is there a video recording? Did you make an admission? Whatever the circumstance, be smart. Don’t compound the predicament you now face. Remain calm. Educate yourself. Retain the right criminal law firm to best ensure this mistake does not alter the course of your life. Now your future is in your own hands.

Call our criminal lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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