People engage in shoplifting for a number of reasons — sometimes people steal items they or their family desperately need but cannot afford (such as food), while other people are driven to steal due to mental health issues like kleptomania, while some people engage in shoplifting for personal profit. Whatever the reason, a conviction for shoplifting can impose serious consequences on an offender, including jail or prison time, fines, and long-lasting damage to one’s reputation from having a conviction record.
If you or a loved one have been charged with shoplifting in Pennsylvania, it is critical that you understand how Pennsylvania’s laws treat this offense and what kinds of consequences you may face for a conviction.
What is Shoplifting?
In Pennsylvania, shoplifting is defined as a theft or larceny from a retailer. As a result, Pennsylvania categorizes shoplifting under the retail theft law, separate from the state’s other theft laws. “Retail theft” is defined as carrying away or transferring any merchandise from a store or other retailer with the intent of depriving the merchant of the use, benefit, or full value of the merchandise. Examples of retail theft or shoplifting in Pennsylvania can include:
- Taking possession or carrying away merchandise from a store or retailer without paying the full retail value
- Changing or removing price labels
- Transferring merchandise into different containers to avoid paying full retail value for the merchandise
- Tampering with security devices
- Manipulating a register or point-of-sale system to ring up an item at less than its full retail value, or to give discounts the buyer is not entitled to.
Penalties for Shoplifting in Pennsylvania
Under Pennsylvania’s criminal law, the penalty for shoplifting increases with the value of the merchandise. In addition, courts can impose more severe penalties for repeat offenders or for offenders who commit other criminal acts in the course of shoplifting (particularly violent offenses like assault).
A conviction for shoplifting can result in the following penalties, depending on the criminal grading of the charge:
- Summary offense (first offenses involving merchandise valued at less than $150): Up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $300
- Second-degree misdemeanor (second offense involving merchandise valued at less than $150); Up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000
- First-degree misdemeanor (involving merchandise valued at $150 or more, with no more than one prior offense): Up to five years in jail or prison and a fine of up to $10,000
- Third-degree felony (third or subsequent offense regardless of the value of the merchandise stolen; theft of merchandise valued at more than $1,000, or theft of a firearm): Up to seven years in prison and fines of up to $15,000
Defenses to Shoplifting Charges
There are few recognized legal defenses to a shoplifting charge. One potential defense is a “mistake of fact” defense; in a shoplifting case, you might raise a mistake of fact defense if you genuinely believed you had paid for an item before leaving the store.
Proving a legal defense to a shoplifting charge is an incredibly difficult task; you will likely need the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you and give you the best chance at successfully raising a legal defense to your shoplifting charge.
Contact an Experienced Erie Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Shoplifting Charges in Pennsylvania
Were you arrested or charged with shoplifting in Pennsylvania? The consequences of a conviction could be severe, leaving you with a permanent criminal record and possibly even sending you to jail. That is why you need to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible about your case. The attorneys at Purchase, George & Murphey, P.C. have successfully represented clients charged with shoplifting in Millcreek, Harborcreek, Fairview, Meadville, and throughout Pennsylvania. Call (814) 833-7100 or fill out the online contact form to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team. We have an office conveniently located at 2525 W. 26th St., Erie, PA 16506, as well as offices located in Meadville and North East.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.