State officials: Police can do more than appearance tickets in stolen car cases

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – When Governor Kathy Hochul came to town Friday, she shared a staggering statistic: In the first seven months of 2023, car thefts in Monroe County jumped 345%. Hochul said that was the highest jump in the nation.

She and her team also said that police have the opportunity to do more than just issue appearance tickets for perpetrators.

Hochul’s deputy secretary of public safety, Marcos Soler, said Friday and again to News10NBC on Monday that the reason they don’t is a training issue.

“This is not a matter of — a legislative issue, but rather a training issue primarily,” he said. “Training with regards to how officers on the field are charging specific provisions of the law […] They’re going to provide additional training to officers, so they can charge the specific provisions of the penal law that applies to grand larceny.”

Soler listed the relevant criminal penal codes (15530, 15535, 150-20, and section 510). He said that police are often charging suspected thieves with grand larceny in the fourth degree, which usually means an appearance ticket.

But he claims that if the responding officer can prove the value of the stolen car is more than $3,000 —

“In those cases, the officers can use the other provision of the grand larceny – the penal law — the grand larceny in the third degree,” he said. “And charge, rather than an E felony, which is an appearance ticket in most cases, charge a D felony, which is then a custodial arrest.”

Of course, it’s not always that simple. Depending on the individual circumstances of both the theft and the thief, this may not apply. In many instances, the driver is charged with criminal possession of stolen property, because police can’t always prove they were the one who stole the car.

Many law enforcement officials have said this and other circumstances means their hands are tied by the law to give out appearance tickets.

The Rochester Police Department said the following in response to Soler’s explanation:

“The Rochester Police Department has, and will continue, to follow the New York State Criminal Procedure Law when it comes to issuing appearance tickets.

This is not something that we have discretion on.”

Soler said they have been meeting with local law enforcement agencies throughout the state, and will continue to do so.