The laws regarding how shoplifting is defined and prosecuted within the country vary on a state-by-state basis. If you live in Pennsylvania and have been charged with shoplifting, here’s what you need to know about the penalties you may face. You will also learn why hiring an attorney is in your best interest, even when the charge is only a summary offense.
Shoplifting is referred to as “retail theft” in the Pennsylvania Code. According to section 3929 of the Code, a person is guilty of retail theft if he or she takes any merchandise from a store or retail mercantile establishment; alters or removes a label or price tag marking of a retail item for sale; changes the container/packaging that the retail item is sold in with the intent to deprive the merchant of the full value of the retail item; under-rings the item; or destroys, removes, or otherwise renders inoperable any control tag or security strip.
Based on the definitions of retail theft, a person can be charged with retail theft even if he or she doesn’t actually take something without paying for it; rather, altering a product or product tag with the intent to take the product or otherwise deprive the merchant of the item’s full value is enough to be arrested and charged with shoplifting.
Penalties for Shoplifting in Pennsylvania
Retail theft is graded differently than other theft crimes in the state. When the crime is a first offense and involves a retail item of less than $150, it is considered a summary offense. As the monetary value of the retail items involved increases, and if the accused has a prior conviction on his or her record, the penalties increase. The offense will be penalized as a third-degree felony in the case that the amount taken exceeds $1,000 or in the event that the retail item was a firearm or a motor vehicle, according to Pennsylvania Code section 3929(b)(v).
A third-degree penalty for retail theft in Pennsylvania is punishable by up to seven years in prison, according to the Pennsylvania Code section 15.66, and a fine of up to $15,000. A summary offense, on the other hand, is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $300.
As a note, if the retail item stolen was more than $2,000 in value or involved a boat, car, motorcycle or other motor-propelled vehicle, the crime is considered theft, which is also punished as a third-degree felony.
Do I need an attorney if charged with retail theft?
If you have been charged with retail theft in Pennsylvania, it is essential that you seek legal counsel. A charge of retail theft is not a conviction, and an attorney can help you to strike a plea bargain or negotiate a less severe sentence if convicted of the crime. Attempting to deal with criminal charges on one’s own can be overwhelming and scary and often leads to a harsher sentence.
It is important to note that any retail theft conviction – even for a summary offense – will appear on a person’s record. A criminal conviction such as this can make getting a job, finding housing or applying for higher education challenging.
Contact the Attorneys at ARM Lawyers for Criminal Defense Help
Following a shoplifting charge, hiring an attorney as soon as possible is essential. The sooner you contact an attorney, the earlier that you can begin gathering evidence to prove your innocence or considering a plea bargain.
At ARM Lawyers, our legal team believes that you deserve the best defense possible. To meet with our attorneys for free today, call us now. We’ll provide you with the legal representation you need!