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Theft is often a one-time mistake, a quickly-regretted impulse or an act of desperation by people who are distraught because they can’t pay their bills. But Pennsylvania law grades the severity of your punishment by the value of what was taken, not by your reasons for taking it.

Whatever motivated the theft, those who are charged face frightening repercussions that include prison, fines and a criminal record. If you are arrested for theft, you will need a strong and aggressive defense.

What You Need To Know About Theft

In Pennsylvania, theft is defined as “theft by unlawful taking or disposition.”

  • Theft means unlawfully taking property that belongs to another person with the intention of depriving them of their property.
  • Theft includes taking someone else’s movable property, for example a diamond ring or TV.
  • Theft also includes the unlawful transfer or exercise of control over immovable property, like a parcel of land, that you are not entitled to.
  • Under Pennsylvania law, theft is taking property from another person, not from an entity like a store or corporation. For example theft is different from shoplifting, which is classified as retail theft because it is taking property from a retail company.

Types of theft

  • It is theft if you keep something for yourself that you know was lost or mislaid by the real owner, or if you keep property that was delivered by mistake. To avoid violating this law, you need to take reasonable measures to give the property back to its rightful owner.
  • Pennsylvania classifies it as theft from a motor vehicle if you take an item that belongs to somebody else out of a car, truck or other vehicle, and keep it for yourself.
  • If you rent or lease an item, and intentionally use it as your own even though it doesn’t belong to you, you can face theft of leased property. An example would be, if you rent a tuxedo for one night but then you sell it, destroy it or refuse to give it back.
  • You can be charged with theft by failure to make required dispositions of funds received, if you have a legal agreement to make payments on a property, and although the property isn’t yours you intentionally deal with it as if it was your own and fail to make the payments due.

Theft Can Be A Felony Or Misdemeanor

The grading of a theft charge is largely based on the value of what was taken.

If the stolen item is valued at:

  • More than $2,000, it is a felony of the third degree.
  • Between $2,000 and $200, it is a misdemeanor of the first degree.
  • More than $50 but less than $200, it is a misdemeanor of the second degree.
  • Less than $50, the theft is a misdemeanor of the third degree.

A few other factors also make a difference in the severity of the grading. If, for example, the theft occurred during a natural or man-made disaster, it will draw a more serious charge. It is also more serious if the stolen item is a firearm.

What To Do If You Are Charged

If you are charged with theft, do not anger the arresting officer unnecessarily. You will probably be held in jail overnight. At this stage, do not discuss what happened with the police or claim your innocence.

  • As with most criminal charges, you should not talk to the police or prosecutors without your attorney by your side. What you say can be taken out of context and used against you.
  • If the police question you, tell them you want a lawyer and politely refuse to answer their questions.

What Your PA Theft Attorney Can Do

Your attorney will carefully review every aspect of your case to determine if there is evidence for all you have been accused of.

  • Your lawyer will make every effort to discredit any evidence not in your favor.
  • Much of what your lawyer can do to help you will depend on the exact circumstances of your case.

Your lawyer will be looking at every avenue that can help you, so it’s important that you give them all of the information that can support your case.

How a PA Theft Attorney Will Help

When you are up against a theft charge, even before your first hearing you will be facing a determined prosecutor. You need an attorney who will stand by you every step of the way, work hard to discredit any evidence – and work with you to determine your best course of action.

Pennsylvania Theft Law

Theft is described and defined under The Pennsylvania Criminal Code under Title 18, Chapter 39. Read the code here.

Questions? Contact us today.

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.