I'm curious about what constitutes a violation of the law in the State of New York (but other jurisdictions would be interesting to me, too).

The scenario is that an adult takes something of significant value from a shop with the intent of keeping it. He conceals it and leaves the shop. Nothing else happens (no fight, no threat, no weapon, no damage etc.). This is surely a violation of the law (theft or larceny). I'm wondering about the legal significance of whether the injured presses charges.

I'll ask a few related question which I feel are so connected that it makes sense to ask them together.

  • The shop owner sees it but shrugs and refuses to press charges. Is the act still a violation of the law?
  • If yes, could the responsible public attorney prosecute anyway?
  • Would the act continue to be a violation of the law if the shop owner gave the man his explicit permission to keep the item when he coincidentally meets him the next day? Or would it only be a crime between the action and the permission, so that any possible ongoing prosecution must now stop?

1 Answer 1


If the elements of an offence are completed, then the fact that the wronged party is indifferent or declines to "press charges" does not negate the fact that an offence has been committed.

If the initial act was an offence, subsequent permission would not negate that fact, and prosecution of that initial act could continue.

A responsible prosecutor however would take into account the fact that the victim is not interested in seeing the act prosecuted. The non-cooperation of the victim would affect the police's assessment of the likelihood of conviction. It would also play a role in the assessment of whether a prosecution is in the public interest. Ontario's Charge Screening policy lists the "views of the victim" as a factor to consider. British Columbia's lists the "seriousness of the harm caused to a victim." In the end, a responsible prosecutor could still prosecute, but that decision will depend on the totality of the circumstances, not only on the fact of the offence and the views of the victim.

  • Thanks for the answer. I thought my question was closed already. The other one answers my questions pretty well. Feb 8 at 4:38

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