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NYCDS releases new report on shoplifting bump ups in New York County

The quintessential example of criminalizing poverty is the prosecution of shoplifting of hygiene or other necessary items. Every year NYCDS represents thousands of people charged with Petit Larceny, or shoplifting, where they face misdemeanor charges and a jail sentence of up to one year. In 2018, NYCDS represented people in 1,422 cases where Petit Larceny was the top charge.

Unlike other boroughs in New York City, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office frequently charges people with felony burglary in shoplifting cases. They “bump-up” the misdemeanor charges to a felony when the accused person has a prior trespass notice at the same store.

In 2018, we represented 47 people who had shoplifting charges bumped up to felony Burglary in the Third Degree charges. This report analyzes this sub-set of cases and the cost to taxpayers of incarcerating people on these charges.

Findings include:

  • Taxpayers spent $1,417,288 on jail or prison sentences for NYCDS clients in bumped up shoplifting cases in 2018;
  • The cost of arresting our 47 clients in these cases cost the city $82,250;
  • 74% of NYCDS clients with bumped up shoplifting cases had bail amounts set at $1,000 or above;
  • These clients overwhelmingly pleaded guilty (97%). Only one client received a dismissal of charges. No clients proceeded to trial;
  • Out of those who pleaded guilty, the vast majority of cases with available disposition information (67%) were sentenced to jail;
  • The median amount of time in jail or prison was 180 days, with half of those sentenced to jail or prison serving more than 180 days;
  • Of those receiving jail/prison sentences, 11% were sentenced to state prison with sentences of over one year;
  • 36% of clients in our shoplifting bump-up cases are homeless, and;
  • A plurality of these cases come from Rite Aid and other drug stores.

Read the report here.