Wherever there’s a legal system, theft is against the law. It seems simple – you can’t take what is not yours – but theft laws can be exceedingly complicated. If you are accused of theft in Pennsylvania, you will need the advice and services of a Lemoyne criminal defense lawyer.

What constitutes theft in Pennsylvania? How is it distinct from robbery or burglary? What are the penalties for a theft conviction? And how can an attorney help you if you are charged with one of these crimes?

If you’ll continue reading, you will learn some important answers, and you will also learn more about your rights if you are accused of a theft crime here in Pennsylvania.

What Constitutes Theft? What Constitutes Robbery or Burglary?

A theft happens in Pennsylvania whenever someone takes someone else’s property without the owner’s authorization or consent. You may also be charged with a theft crime if you receive or accept property that you know is stolen, but you have no intention of returning it to the owner.

Robbery is considered a subcategory of theft. In a robbery, the robber uses intimidation or force to accomplish the theft. Legally in Pennsylvania, robbery is always theft, but theft is not always robbery.

To convict you of theft, the state must prove that you took someone else’s property and intended to deprive that person of the property.

Burglary is a separate crime. A burglary happens when someone enters any building or any other occupied structure to commit a crime – usually but not necessarily a theft or robbery – without authorization or consent from the owner or tenant.

How Are Theft Convictions Penalized?

Listed below is a summary of the theft laws in Pennsylvania and the punishments that may be imposed for convictions:

1. If the stolen items are worth $50 or less, the theft is considered a third-degree misdemeanor. The maximum penalty for a conviction is one year in custody and a $2,500 fine.

2. If the stolen items are worth more than $50 but no more than $200, the theft is considered a second-degree misdemeanor. The maximum penalty for a conviction is two years in custody and a fine of $5,000.

3. If the stolen items are worth over $200 but no more than $2,000, the theft is a first-degree misdemeanor. The maximum penalty for a conviction is five years in a penitentiary and a fine of $10,000.

4. If the stolen items are worth over $2,000 but no more than $100,000, the theft is a third-degree felony. The maximum penalty for a conviction is seven years in a penitentiary and a fine of $15,000. The theft of a motor vehicle in this state is also a third-degree felony.

5. If the stolen property is worth over $100,000 but no more than $500,000, the theft is a second-degree felony. The maximum penalty for a conviction is ten years in custody and a fine of $25,000. The theft of a firearm in Pennsylvania is also a second-degree felony.

6. If the stolen items are worth over $500,000, the theft is a first-degree felony. The maximum penalty for a conviction is twenty years in a penitentiary and a fine of $25,000. Receiving a stolen firearm in Pennsylvania is also a first-degree felony.

What Other Thefts Are Considered Felonies?

Along with vehicles and firearms, the theft of an airplane, motorboat, or trade secrets, regardless of their value, is a felony in Pennsylvania, as well as any theft committed during a natural disaster.

A theft conviction may be enhanced – with more time in custody and/or a higher fine – if the perpetrator used a firearm, has prior criminal convictions, or if a juvenile was involved in the crime.

A conviction for theft may also trigger other penalties. Those with professional licenses may face disciplinary action by their professional licensing boards. Immigrants convicted of theft may face deportation proceedings.

How is Shoplifting Defined? What Are the Penalties?

Shoplifting cases are handled somewhat differently. Shoplifting involves taking merchandise from a retailer without paying, but it may also mean failing to pay an item’s full price, switching price tags, or hiding an item in a different container to avoid paying the full price.

Destroying a theft prevention device to avoid paying for merchandise is also considered shoplifting. Listed below are the maximum penalties for shoplifting convictions:

1. If it’s a first offense, shoplifting merchandise valued at less than $150 is a summary offense. A conviction may be penalized with no more than ninety days in jail and a fine of no more than $300.

2. If it’s a second offense, shoplifting merchandise valued at less than $150 is a second-degree misdemeanor. A conviction may be penalized with no more than two years in custody and a fine of no more than $5,000.

3. A second shoplifting offense involving merchandise valued at $150 or more is a first-degree misdemeanor. A conviction may be penalized with five years in prison and a fine of $10,000.

4. Shoplifting in Pennsylvania is a third-degree felony if the merchandise is valued at $1,000 or more, if the shoplifted item is a firearm, or if it’s a third or subsequent offense. A conviction is punishable with up to seven years in prison and a fine of $15,000.

If You Are Arrested

If you face any of these charges – theft, shoplifting, robbery, or burglary – you must contact a good Pennsylvania defense attorney at once. Do not try to be your own lawyer. The law is too complicated, and any mistake could result in a conviction.

If you’re placed under arrest and charged with any of these crimes, exercise your rights. You have the right to remain silent, and you have the right to an attorney.

Whether you are innocent or guilty as charged, do not admit or confess to anything, do not try to negotiate your own plea deal, and do not sign any legal documents or other legal paperwork unless your defense attorney is present.

When Should You Contact an Attorney?

After any criminal arrest in Pennsylvania, make the call to a Lemoyne criminal defense lawyer as quickly as possible. The consequences of any criminal conviction can be severe. Your future and your freedom will be at stake.

Instead, let the right Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney explain your rights and fight for justice on your behalf.