Is Theft by Deception a Misdemeanor or Felony in Pennsylvania?

While most people in Pennsylvania understand what the general crime of theft is, they might be less aware of theft by deception. This offense is a type of theft that is committed by deceptive means. If you are charged with theft by deception, you should talk to an attorney at DiCindio Law to learn about your rights and the defenses that might be available to you.

What is theft by deception?

The crime of theft by deception is defined under 18 Pa.C.S. § 3922. This statute defines theft by deception as occurring when someone intentionally takes or withholds the property of someone else by the use of deception. People can be charged with this offense under any of the following three circumstances:

  • When the defendant reinforces or creates a false impression about his or her intention, the law, or his or her state of mind
  • When the defendant conceals information that would affect the victim’s judgment about engaging in a transaction
  • When the defendant fails to correct a mistaken or false impression that the defendant had created and that they knew would influence the victim with whom the defendant has a fiduciary relationship

Some types of deception will not be considered to be criminal. For example, if the person simply exaggerated about something or engaged in puffery, that is not considered to be theft by deception as long as a reasonable person would not believe the statements. Theft by deception also does not occur when a person’s falsehoods are not financially related.

Examples of theft by deception

Some examples of theft by deception could include the following:

  • Lying about having a serious medical condition to induce people to contribute money to a GoFundMe account
  • Altering the odometer reading on a vehicle to induce someone to buy it
  • Engaging in a phishing scheme while pretending to be a company to steal the victim’s confidential financial data
  • Selling stolen items to a pawn shop while signing an attestation of ownership form

What are the penalties for theft by deception in Pennsylvania?

The penalties and offense grading for theft by deception in Pennsylvania depend on the value of the property or money that is stolen as follows:

  • Value of less than $50 – Third-degree misdemeanor with up to 12 months in jail and fines of up to $2,500
  • Value from $50 to less than $200 – Second-degree misdemeanor carrying up to 24 months in jail and up to $5,000 in fines
  • Value of $200 to less than $2,000 – Misdemeanor of the first degree carrying up to five years of incarceration and a fine of up to $10,000
  • Value of $2,000+ – Felony of the third degree carrying up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000

If you are convicted of theft by deception, you will have a theft on your record that can follow you throughout your life. Many employers are hesitant to hire people who have theft convictions. This means it may be harder for you to find a job. You might also have trouble in your relationships and have trouble finding housing or obtaining credit.

Theft by deception defenses

When you are charged with theft by deception, it will be important for you to present a strong defense. You do not want to have a theft conviction on your record. The prosecutor will be required to prove all of the elements of the offense against you beyond a reasonable doubt. Your attorney will carefully review the evidence against you and investigate your case to build a vigorous defense. The defenses that might be available to you will depend on the facts of your case. Some of the potential defenses to a theft by deception charge include the following:

  • You did not obtain the property. Instead, the property’s owner lost or misplaced it.
  • The property’s owner freely and willingly gave you the property without inducement.
  • You had the clear intention to return the property.
  • The property owner misunderstood your conversation, and you did not engage in deception.
  • You had no intention to deceive the victim.

Hiring a criminal defense lawyer

Retaining an experienced criminal defense lawyer to defend you against a charge of theft by deception can potentially make a difference in the outcome of your case. When you are facing this type of charge, you must ensure that your rights are protected and that you fight against it with as much evidence as possible.

At DiCindio Law, Michael DiCindio is a former prosecutor and experienced defense lawyer. He understands how the police and prosecutors build their cases and can work to present a strong defense for you. We can analyze your case and explain the legal options that you have. Mr. DiCindio can try to secure the most favorable plea possible for you or fight against the charges through trial. Schedule a consultation to learn about your rights by calling us at 610.430.3535 or by filling out our contact form.

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