Theft

There are many different PA theft crimes. Some categories include:

  • Theft by unlawful taking or disposition
  • Theft by deception
  • Theft of property lost, mislaid, or delivered by mistake
  • Receiving stolen property
  • Retail theft
  • Forgery
  • Identity Theft

Some PA theft crimes are graded as summary offenses (the level of a traffic ticket) but others can be misdemeanors or felony offenses if the amount involved is over a certain amount, if one has been convicted of a theft offense in the past, or if other circumstances are present.

Theft by unlawful taking or disposition: One can commit a theft with movable or immovable property. With respect to movable property, a person is guilty of theft if he unlawfully takes, or exercises unlawful control over, movable property of another with the intent to deprive him of the property. With respect to immovable property, a person is guilty of theft if he unlawfully transfers, or exercises unlawful control over property of another or any interest therein with intent to benefit himself or another not entitled to the property.

Theft by deception: A person is guilty of theft if he intentionally obtains or withholds property of another by deception. Deception is found when a person intentionally:

  • creates or reinforces a false impression regarding law, value, or intention
  • prevents another from acquiring information which would affect his judgment of a transaction; or
  • fails to correct a false impression which the deceiver previously created or reinforced, or which the deceiver knows to be influencing another person

Theft of property lost, mislaid, or delivered by mistake: A person who comes into control of property of another that he knows to have been lost, mislaid, or delivered under a mistake as to the nature or amount of the property or the identity of the recipient is guilty of theft if, with intent to deprive the owner, he fails to take reasonable measures to restore the property to the person entitled to have it.

Receiving stolen property: A person is guilty of theft if he intentionally receives, retains, or disposes of moveable property of another, knowing it has been stolen, or believing that it has probably been stolen, unless the proper is received, retained, or disposed with intent to restore it to the owners.

Punishment: If the property was taken without force or threat of force and the amount involved was less than $50, the offense constitutes a misdemeanor of the third degree. If the property taken without force or threat of force and the amount involved was $50 or more but less than $200, the offense constitutes a misdemeanor of the second degree. Other thefts not specified above constitute a misdemeanor of the first degree.

Theft offenses constitute a felony of the third degree if the amount involved exceeds $2,000 or if the property stolen is an automobile, airplane, motorcycle, or motorboat, or, in the case of receiving stolen property, the receiver is in the business of buying or selling stolen property. Theft offenses constitute a felony of the second degree if the offense is committed during a manmade or natural disaster, the property stolen is a firearm, or, in the case of receiving stolen property, the property received is a firearm and the receiver is in the business of buying or selling stolen property. If force is used or threatened during a theft it will generally be prosecuted as a Robbery.

Retail theft: The rules for Retail Theft are different than those for the other theft offenses. It is worth noting that one can be charged and convicted of retail theft even if he does not take anything from the store without paying for the item. One is guilty of a retail theft if he does one of the following:

  • takes possession, carries away, transfers or causes to be carried away or transferred, any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale by any store or retail establishment with the intention of depriving the merchant of the possession without paying the full retail value
  • alters, transfers or removes any label, price tag marking, or any markings which aid in determining value affixed to any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale in a store or retail establishment and attempts to purchase such merchandise personally or in consort with another at less than the full retail value with the intention of depriving the merchant of the full retail value of such merchandise
  • transfers any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale by any store or retail establishment from the container in which it should be displayed to any other container with intent to deprive the merchant of all or some part of the full retail value;
  • under-rings merchandise with the intention of depriving the merchant of the full retail
  • destroys, removes, renders inoperative or deactivates any inventory control tag, security strip or mechanism designed to prevent a theft with the intention of depriving the merchant or the possession without paying the full retail value

There is a presumption that any person intentionally concealing unpurchased property either on the premises or outside the premises concealed the property with the intention of depriving the merchant of the possession, use or benefit of such merchandise without paying the full retail value. The same presumption applies if a person conceals or causes to be concealed the unpurchased merchandise on another person or among another person’s belongings.

The following chart demonstrates the penalties for retail theft, one of the most common PA Theft crimes:

Value of Merchandise
Less than $150 $150 or more Over $2,000
Number of Past Convictions First Offense Summary offense Misdemeanor 1 Felony 3
Second Offense Misdemeanor 2 Misdemeanor 1 Felony 3
Third or More Offense Felony 3 Felony 3 Felony 3

It is important to hire a lawyer to handle a retail theft charge — even if it is a first offense. A conviction for retail theft can remain on your criminal record and can affect your future. Also, if it happens again, the penalty increases. The lawyer might also be able to save you a lot of money. None of our clients ever pay the civil penalty associated with Retail Theft and not one of them has ever had any adverse consequences as a result. Don’t regret not hiring a lawyer to work for your best interests and negotiate a lenient punishment or not guilty verdict.

There may be an opportunity to reduce the charges, or pay a fine in order for the charges to be dropped. Another option might be a discretionary program called Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, also known as ARD. If you are admitted to the program you will pay a fine, receive probation for 1 to 2 years and perform community service. If you successfully complete the program, the charge will not be placed on your record. You will be able to honestly admit to having no criminal conviction. Consulting with an attorney before making any important decisions is vital.