Theft by unlawful taking is a very commonly charged crime in Pennsylvania. Depending on the value of the property taken and the circumstances surrounding what happened, this offense can range from a summary offense to a serious felony.
If you are facing a charge of theft by unlawful taking, getting prompt help from an experienced attorney at DiCindio Law might help you to defend against the allegations against you.
What is theft by unlawful taking In Chester County, PA?
Theft by unlawful taking is defined in 18 Pa.CS § 3921. Under this statute, theft by unlawful taking or disposition can be charged when movable or immovable property is involved.
You can be charged with this crime when you unlawfully take or transfer property from someone else without permission and with the intent to permanently deprive the victim of the property you take.
For movable property, you can be charged if you steal someone else’s property or exercise control over it while intending to deprive the victim of its ownership. The movable property includes items that you can carry or move away, including electronics, jewelry, and other similar items.
For unmovable property, you can be charged with theft by unlawful taking when you unlawfully transfer ownership of someone else’s property while intending to permanently deprive them of their ownership interests. This can be charged if you illegally transfer a deed to a home or a piece of land.
Elements of theft by unlawful taking
Prosecutors must prove all of the elements of theft by unlawful taking beyond a reasonable doubt before defendants can be found guilty of this offense. The elements of this crime include the following:
- The defendant was in Pennsylvania on the date and time alleged in the complaint.
- The defendant unlawfully took, transferred, or exercised control over the property of another.
- The defendant intended to permanently deprive the owner of his or her ownership interests in the property at the time of the taking or transfer.
Theft by unlawful taking or disposition vs. retail theft In Chester County, PA
Theft by unlawful taking or disposition is charged when you take property from another person. By contrast, retail theft occurs when you take property from a business or store. If you steal items from a store, you will be charged with retail theft instead of unlawful taking.
Offense grading and penalties for theft by unlawful taking or disposition
The grading of a theft offense is based on how much the property that was taken was worth. In general, the following offense grades apply to theft by unlawful taking offenses:
- $2001 and up – Third-degree felony carrying a maximum of seven years in prison and a fine of $15,000
- $201 to $2,000 – First degree misdemeanor carrying a maximum of five years of prison and a $10,000 fine
- $50 to $200 – Second-degree misdemeanor carrying a maximum sentence of two years in prison and a fine of $5,000
- Under $50 – Third-degree misdemeanor carrying a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $2,500 fine
For thefts involving firearms or occurring during a natural disaster, theft by unlawful taking can be a second-degree felony with the potential of up to 10 years of prison and a $25,000 fine.
Defending against theft by unlawful taking or disposition In Chester County, PA
There are several potential defenses that might be raised to defend you against a charge of theft by unlawful taking. The defensive strategy that your attorney might choose will depend on the facts and circumstances of your case.
One potential defense to this type of crime is insufficient evidence. For example, simply being in possession of property that belongs to somebody else does not mean that you necessarily stole it or knew that it was stolen. This type of defense might apply if you purchased something online that you did not know was stolen.
In some cases, a person will be charged with a higher offense level based on the alleged value of the property. Your attorney will carefully analyze the value of any property and might challenge the value that the prosecutor has claimed. In some cases, this can mean the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor charge.
Witnesses who lack credibility are commonly a problem in criminal cases. If your case goes to trial, your attorney will cross-examine any witnesses to expose inconsistencies in their stories and to highlight why their stories might not make sense.
There are many other defenses that might be available. Your attorney will talk to you about the defenses that might apply in your case.
Pre-trial diversion and theft by unlawful taking
Depending on your background and the facts of your case, you might be offered a pre-trial diversion program by the prosecutor. If you complete pre-trial diversion, it can help you to avoid time in jail and a criminal conviction. Pre-trial diversion is generally only available to people who do not have criminal records or who have very minimal records.
To complete a pre-trial diversion program, you will be required to pay a fine, pay restitution, and complete some community service hours. You might also have to complete a period of probation.
As long as you comply with the terms of a pre-trial diversion program, your charges will be dismissed and expunged from your record. Your attorney can talk to you about whether you might be eligible for this type of program in your case.
Talk to a criminal defense attorney near me
When you are facing charges of theft by unlawful taking or disposition, it is important for you to retain a qualified criminal defense lawyer. Having a theft conviction on your record can make it very difficult for you to find employment. When an employer performs a background check, your record will be easily seen.
An attorney at DiCindio Law can fight for you to protect your freedom and to secure the best outcome possible under the circumstances. Call us today at (610) 430-3535 to schedule a consultation.