Theft by Deception


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Being charged with theft by deception can be a difficult blow to your reputation, career, and family life. All of a sudden, people start to look at you differently and treat you with far less trust than they had before. You may not feel like you can go anywhere or do anything without the charges hanging over your head. A Philadelphia theft attorney can help.

Facing criminal charges is always going to be difficult and there is no way for an attorney to change that. However, by working with an experienced Philadelphia theft attorney from Fienman Defense, you have someone on your side who can help you fight back.

Call us today at (215) 839-9529 to schedule an initial consultation and learn more about your options.

Theft by Deception in Pennsylvania

Based on Pennsylvania’s Crimes Code statute Section 3922, you can be found guilty of theft by deception if you intentionally obtain or withhold the property of another through the use of deception. Property of another person could mean almost anything, including money, real estate, vehicles, jewelry, other personal items, and even services. However, the element of the crime that is most important to your pending case is the deception. A prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your actions fall into one of these definitions.

The statute defines deception as intentionally:

  • Creating or reinforcing a false impression, including regarding the law, value, intention, or other state of mind. However, deception in regard to a promise cannot be inferred from only the fact that you did not perform the act as promised. There must be other facts to prove you intended to deceive the other person.
  • Preventing another person from acquiring information that would alter their judgment about the transaction.
  • Failing to correct a false impression that you previously created or reinforced or which you know influences another person to whom you have a fiduciary or confidential relationship with.

Actions That Are Not Deception

Section 3922 specifically states actions that are not deception in regard to a theft crime. The law does not include false information that has no monetary significance within the definition of deception. If you are accused of making a false statement or providing untrue information that did not change the value or financial aspect of the transaction, then this is not deception. You may have told a lie or could potentially be convicted of another crime, yet you cannot be convicted of theft by deception for this.

Also, “puffing statements,” or exaggerations, that are unlikely to be believed by an ordinary person are not deception. For instance, saying your product is the best in the world is a promotional plea. It cannot be proven and is not something most potential customers will take seriously.

Potential Punishments for Theft by Deception

The possible charges and punishment for theft by deception are determined similarly to other theft crimes: based on the value of the items obtained or withheld. If you are accused of stealing small items that are not very valuable, you likely face a low-level misdemeanor and a maximum of one to two years in prison along with fines. An experienced attorney can fight for your right to minimal imprisonment and probation instead. However, if you allegedly took expensive property or real estate, then you will be charged with a felony and face much harsher statutory and collateral consequences.

For most theft cases, charges are determined as such:

  • For property worth less than $50, you face a third-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine.
  • For property valued between $50 and $200, prosecutors will charge you with a second-degree misdemeanor. This can lead to up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
  • For property worth between $200 and $2,000, you will be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. You could be sentenced to up to five years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
  • For property valued at more than $2,000, you will face a third-degree felony, punishable by up to seven years imprisonment and up to a $15,000 fine.

Collateral Consequences of a Theft Conviction

There are more consequences to a misdemeanor or felony conviction than incarceration and fines. After being found or pleading guilty to a crime, you will have a permanent criminal record, which can be viewed by individuals or businesses that run background checks on you. These checks are common when you try to rent an apartment, apply for a new job, or ask for a loan. When a conviction comes up on your background, particularly for a felony, then you are less likely to get the apartment, position, or loan. Job hunting can be especially difficult when a future employer sees you are convicted of stealing. With a criminal record, a number of doors will be shut to you either due to the law, which can bar you from obtaining certain professional licenses, or due to discrimination and fear.

Defending Against a Theft by Deception Charge

If you have been charged with theft by deception, contact an experienced Philadelphia theft attorney today to learn more about your potential defenses. Two common defenses to this charge are that you lacked the necessary intent to commit the crime or that you did not commit a deception as defined by the law.

The best defense strategy for your case will depend on a number of factors, including the circumstances surrounding the alleged crime. A criminal defense attorney will review your case and explain the weakest and strongest arguments you could put forward in court.

How a Philadelphia Theft Attorney Can Help

If you have been charged with theft by deception, there are ways to fight back. The first step is to contact Fienman Defense at (215) 839-9529. Criminal defense lawyer Michael Fienman will analyze your case, get to know you, and recommend the best strategy moving forward. We will always strive to present evidence that supports your defense and weakens the prosecution’s case.

Questions? Contact us today.

Based on the evidence, Fienman Defense will try to show that the charges should be dismissed. If it’s in your best interest, we will work to negotiate a lesser sentence. Should the case go to trial, we will fight to present the strongest defense possible for your situation.