Pennsylvania Theft Offenses Attorney
Some people in Pennsylvania might think that shoplifting or retail theft is a fairly harmless offense. However, if you are charged with retail theft, you could face serious penalties, depending on the value of the items taken and the facts surrounding the incident. A retail theft conviction can also cause problems in other areas of your life. For example, you might have trouble securing employment from employers that conduct background checks. If you are facing retail theft charges, you should talk to a criminal defense attorney in West Chester, PA at DiCindio Law.
What is retail theft in Pennsylvania?
Retail theft is defined in 18 Pa.CS. § 3929. Under this statute, you can be charged with retail theft if you do any of the following things:
- Take, transfer, carry away, or cause someone else to transfer or carry away any merchandise stored, displayed, or offered for sale by a retailer with the intent to deprive the merchant of the item and without paying the retail price
- Remove, transfer, or alter a price tag or label that is used to determine the value of merchandise to try to get the item for less than its full value
- Take any merchandise offered for sale, stored, or displayed by a retailer from its container or display with the intent to deprive the retailer of some or all of the item’s value
- Under-ring an item to deprive the retailer of the item’s full retail value
- Deactivate, remove, or destroy a security strip or an inventory control tag with the intent to deprive the merchant of the item without paying for it
What are the penalties for retail theft in Pennsylvania?
If you are convicted of retail theft, the penalties you might face will depend on the value of the items stolen and your criminal record. The potential penalties for retail theft include the following for a first offense:
Value less than $150 – Summary offense carrying up to 90 days in jail and a maximum fine of $300
Value of $150+ – First-degree misdemeanor carrying up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000
If the conviction is a second offense, you will face the following penalties:
- Value less than $150 – Second-degree misdemeanor carrying up to two years in jail and a maximum fine of $5,000
- Value of $150+ – First-degree misdemeanor carrying up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000
If you are convicted of retail theft as a third offense, it is a third-degree felony no matter the value of the merchandise taken. This conviction can result in a prison sentence of up to seven years and a maximum fine of $15,000.
If you steal a firearm or motor vehicle during a retail theft incident, or the property is valued at more than $1,000, it will be a third-degree felony regardless of whether it is your first offense. This is punishable by up to seven years in prison and a maximum fine of $15,000.
If you are convicted of stealing gasoline for your vehicle, a first offense will result in an additional fine of $250. A second-offense fuel theft conviction will result in an additional fine of $500, and a third-offense fuel theft conviction will result in an additional $500 fine plus a 30-day driver’s license suspension.
Under 42 Pa.CS § 8308, people who are convicted of retail theft may also be ordered to pay civil damages. These damages might include restitution for the value of the merchandise if it is damaged, court costs, and attorney’s fees.
Defenses to retail theft charges
If you are convicted of retail theft, the penalties that you could face might be harsh, including incarceration, heavy fines, restitution, and collateral consequences. The first step you should take after being charged with this crime is to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Your attorney can review the facts of what happened and advise you about your rights and options. Your lawyer can also handle communications with the prosecutors and law enforcement officers for you. By working with an attorney, you can build strong defenses to your charges and potentially secure a reduced sentence or an outright dismissal of your charges.
Some of the defenses that might be raised include the following:
- You were detained by store security personnel without probable cause.
- The arresting officer did not read you your Miranda rights.
- The value of the items was less than what the prosecutor claims.
- You did not intend to deprive the merchant of the item’s value.
If you were seized by the store security professionals and held without probable cause to believe you had stolen anything, your attorney might be able to get your charges dismissed. You might then have grounds to file a civil lawsuit against the establishment for false imprisonment.
If you made incriminating statements to the police officers during a custodial interrogation after you were detained, your statements might be declared to be inadmissible if the officer failed to read you your Miranda rights. Similarly, your statements may be thrown out if you asserted your rights to an attorney but were denied.
If you did not intend to steal the item, your attorney can attack the element of intent. The prosecutor must prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that if your attorney can show that you did not intend to steal the item, the prosecutor will not be able to prove the case against you. For example, if you were shopping with your two-year-old child, your attorney might be able to have the charges dismissed by presenting video evidence to the prosecutor that your child grabbed an item and slipped it in your purse while your back was turned.
Get help from a criminal defense lawyer
If you are facing retail theft charges, you should take your situation seriously. An experienced attorney at DiCindio Law can review your case and help you to understand the best approach to take in your defense. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation by calling (610) 430-3535.