Can I be charged with larceny for switching an empty box with a “full” box in a retail store prior to getting a refund?

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Can I be charged with larceny for switching an empty box with a “full” box in a retail store prior to getting a refund?

I am being accused of larceny for returning an item that I took off of the store shelf. I walked into the store with an empty TV box, then walked over to the shelf and switched the empty box for the same item and then returned it. This return took place 5 months ago and the police are now contacting me stating they want to arrest me. Can I be charged with laceny for this?Also,ther is security at the front door who “checked” my item and matched it with my receipt and told me to go to customer service and then called customer service on a walkie talkie to alert them of the return.

Asked on January 30, 2012 under Criminal Law, New York

Answers:

Richard Southard / Law Office of Richard Southard

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Depending on the value of the TV you may be charged with Grand Larceny which is a felony.  You can certainly e charged with Petit Larceny as a misdemeanor at the very least.    The fact that the security guard failed to inspect the box more closely is not a defense to the intentional "attempt" at stealing.   The fact that five months transpired is irrelevant because the Statute f Limitations has not tolled.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Yes, you could be charged with larcency--you committed  theft. You stole from the store through deceit--by tricking it into thinking that you were returning an item you purchased, when in fact  you stole the item off the shelf and had the store buy its own item back from you. You clearly knew what you were doing, since this was a deliberate act; therefore, you meet all the requirements to be charged with a crime. The fact that the store security may have made an error does not excuse your criminal act or provide a defense to that (though it may mean that this security guard should be fired).


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