Retail Theft and Larceny in Pennsylvania
In the eyes of the Pennsylvania criminal justice system, retail theft (such as shoplifting) is not a minor offense. Therefore, anyone facing charges and potential conviction for such an offense needs a dedicated criminal defense lawyer to protect against potentially life-changing consequences.
Our legal team is made up of former district attorneys in Pennsylvania who personally witnessed the need for caring, committed criminal defense representation. They all left their respective prosecutorial positions to enter private practice so they could provide such service for individuals who deserve it.
Retail Theft in Pennsylvania
Consequences in Retail Theft Cases
At DRK Attorneys, we do everything within our resources to convince the court to dismiss the charges against our clients or to minimize the criminal consequences of the retail theft charge. To understand what your potential penalties are for a conviction, here the general maximum fines and jail sentences for the most common retail offenses in Pennsylvania:
- Merchandise theft: Based on the amount of the items in question, you may face charges for a summary offense, a misdemeanor or a felony. Maximum jail sentences range from 90 days to seven years. Maximum fines range from $300 to $15,000.
- Auto theft: In Pennsylvania, any theft involving an automobile falls under the felony category. As with felonies merchandise theft, the maximum prison sentence you face here is up to seven years and the maximum fine is up to $15,000.
- Firearm theft: Stealing a gun or other firearm is also a felony under state law. The same maximum sentence and fine that apply to car theft also apply here.
- Employee theft: We also represent individuals facing charges for employee theft or embezzlement. These cases often move into federal court, where fines and prison sentences increase dramatically.
The fines and sentences listed above generally apply in first-offense situations. If you find yourself facing a second or subsequent offense, the penalties will increase.
Solutions in Your Retail Theft Case
Oftentimes in shoplifting and other retail theft cases, the store owner will have clear video footage showing the individual perpetrating the crime. If that occurs in your case, there is still hope for a positive resolution.
For instance, if this is your first retail theft offense, we may be able to pursue an alternative option such as Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) or Allegheny Service Institute (ASI). Through these programs, you agree to comply with the court’s requirements – oftentimes including community service and restitution. In return, once your program is complete, the court will dismiss the charges against you and your record will remain clear.
What is Larceny Theft?
Larceny refers to illegally taking someone else’s property. No physical force or weapons are used in the crime of larceny, and it does not involve unlawfully entering a building, as in burglary. Borrowing property temporarily does not constitute larceny.
The FBI defines “larceny-theft” as the unlawful carrying, taking, riding or leading away the property of another person. For instance, riding away on a bicycle that you know belongs to someone else would qualify as larceny. Shoplifting and pick-pocketing also are forms of larceny.
To prove a charge of larceny, prosecutors typically must show that a defendant performed each of the following actions:
- Unlawfully took property
- Took property that belonged to someone else
- Took the item or items without the owner’s consent
- Intended to permanently take the property
Larceny in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania law stipulates that it’s a crime to commit theft of someone else’s property. The state uses the term “theft” rather than “larceny” to refer to the unlawful taking of property. In addition to illegally taking another person’s property, theft also can include accepting or receiving stolen property that a defendant knows was stolen.
Pennsylvania categorizes as theft several methods of taking property:
- Intentionally withholding someone’s property by deception.
- Stealing services.
- Obtaining or withholding property by threatening to harm someone or to commit another criminal act.
- Keeping property that someone else has lost without attempting to return it to the owner.
Types of Larceny
“Grand” and “petty” larceny are determined by the types and value of property stolen. States define the elements that separate petty larceny from grand larceny.
Grand theft — or larceny — is considered the equivalent of first-degree theft. In many states, theft is categorized as grand theft under the following circumstances:
- The value of the stolen property meets a certain dollar threshold.
- The stolen property is taken directly from an individual but without the use of fear or force. Taking someone’s property through the use of force or fear is classified as robbery.
- Certain types of property are stolen. For instance, taking a car or some types of animals often qualify as grand theft regardless of the dollar value of the items.
Petty theft or larceny is considered to be second-degree theft and applies to items that are less valuable or that don’t fall into specific categories such as automobiles.
Theft is a third-degree felony in Pennsylvania if:
- The amount involved is more than $2,000, or;
- If the stolen property is a motorcycle, airplane, automobile, motorboat or other vehicle that is motor-propelled, or;
- If the theft charge relates to receiving stolen property and the receiver participates in the business of selling or buying stolen property.
Theft is a second-degree felony in Pennsylvania if:
- It is committed during a disaster that is man made, natural or caused by war and relates to laws covering unlawful taking or disposition of property, receiving stolen property, using vehicles without authorization, or retail theft.
- A firearm is the stolen property.
- Anhydrous ammonia is the stolen property.
- The stolen property is valued above $100,000 but not more than $500,000.
Theft is a first-degree felony in Pennsylvania if:
- In a case of receiving stolen property, the property is a firearm and the receiver is in the business of dealing in stolen property, or;
- The value of the stolen item or items is in excess of $500,000.
Any theft that does not fall within the three felony categories is classified as a first-degree misdemeanor, except:
- If the value was between $50 and $200, the offense is a second-degree misdemeanor.
- If the value was less than $50, the offense is a third-degree misdemeanor.
Penalties for Larceny
In Pennsylvania, possible penalties for theft can vary significantly according to the value of the items stolen, the types of items and other details pertaining to the case.
- Theft of an item valued at less than $50 is considered a “summary offense,” which is less serious than either a felony or a misdemeanor. A summary offense can result in a sentence of up to 90 days in jail or a fine of $25 to $1,500, or both.
- For other categories of theft, penalties can range from 90 days to seven years of incarceration.
Defending Against a Larceny Charge
For an individual charged with larceny, a criminal defense attorney may employ one of a number of defense strategies, including arguing that:
- The defendant did not intend to permanently take the property.
- The defendant intended to find the rightful owner and return missing property.
- The defendant acted under duress.
- The property was lost rather than stolen.
- The defendant was a victim of entrapment.
- The owner of the property provided consent for taking the property.
In larceny cases, the question often arises whether an alleged crime consisted of one larceny or several. In general, multiple items that are stolen from one owner at the same time will qualify as one case of larceny.
However, courts may look at locations, timing and other issues to determine whether a larceny case involved one or multiple instances of the crime. A court’s determination regarding the number of instances of larceny can affect the number and severity of charges, along with the potential penalties.
Consult with an Experienced Attorney
Larceny is a serious criminal charge, and you should not take it lightly. A conviction can result in significant penalties, including jail time. To schedule a free initial consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Pennsylvania, contact DeLuca, Ricciuti & Konieczka.