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Theft and the law

On Behalf of | Aug 3, 2017 | Criminal Defense

Theft, like many crimes in the United States, is an act that often arises from complex circumstances. Poverty and psychological issues are among the many reasons an individual may commit a theft. In Pennsylvania, theft comes with lasting consequences, including the charging of fines and even jail time.

Findlaw states that in order for a prosecutor to prove a defendant has committed theft, he or she must show beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant unlawfully took, transferred or exercised control over another person’s property with the intent to deprive the owner of the property. Theft also includes the acceptance or purchasing of stolen property if the individual was aware that the property was stolen. Defenses for theft charges in Pennsylvania include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Age
  • Duress
  • Consent
  • Item was not actually stolen

Penalties for theft depend on the price or value of the stolen item. For items less than $50, the offense is a minor misdemeanor. However, if the value of the item is over $2,000, or if the stolen item is a vehicle, vessel or airplane, the charge is a felony.

Different penalties apply for retail theft. According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, a summary offense applies in the case of a first-time theft and if the merchandise is under $150. A second theft offense results in a misdemeanor of the second degree, and if the price of the merchandise is also less than $150. Misdemeanor of the first degree applies when an individual is caught shoplifting an item priced at $150 or more and if the incident is the individual’s first or second offense.