What are the Consequences of Shoplifting in Pennsylvania?
Shoplifting by deception may seem like a minor crime, but in reality, these offenses can lead to significant fines and potential jail time. Around the holidays, shoplifting is more common than any other time of the year as crowded malls and stores become easier targets for shoplifters.
If the holiday season has you tempted to try your luck with “retail theft” or you or a loved one have recently been accused, here are the consequences of shoplifting in Pennsylvania that you should know.
What is Shoplifting or Retail Theft in Pennsylvania?
The state law defines retail theft as taking merchandise that is for sale with the purpose of “depriving the merchant of the possession, use or benefit of such merchandise without paying the full retail value thereof.” There are a number of ways in which you could be convicted of shoplifting. These situations include:
- Altering the price tag or label of merchandise to less than full retail value
- Transferring merchandise to a different container in order to pay less than full value
- Under-ringing merchandise at the cash register to deprive your employer (the store owner) of the full retail value
- Destroying or removing any security tag/device with the intent of removing the merchandise from the store without paying full retail value.
Philadelphia Penalties of Shoplifting
Charges for retail theft will depend on the value of the item that has been taken, as well as whether it is your first, second, or third offense.
First Offense for items worth less than $150:
Fines of up to $300. Sentence of up to 90 days in jail.
Second Offense for items worth less than $150:
Fines of up to $5,000. Sentence of up to 2 years in jail.
First or Second Offense for items worth more than $150:
Fines of up to $10,000. Sentence of up to 5 years in jail.
Third or Subsequent Offense for items over $1000 (or regarding a firearm or motor vehicle):
Fines of up to $15,000. Sentence of up to 7 years in jail. Permanent record with potential loss of civil liberties, such as possessing a firearm.
How to Avoid Shoplifting Charges
When you’re charged with shoplifting, it’s easy to become anxious and apprehensive, but don’t let these emotions result in actions you will regret. If you’re ever accused of retail theft, here’s what you should do:
- Stay Put. You may be tempted to flee the scene, but it will only make things worse, resulting in additional charges and fines. It will also make your case harder to defend in court.
- Avoid Talking to the Police. You’ll likely be turned over to law enforcement, but this does not mean you have to provide them answers to all their questions. Your name and contact information will suffice. Anything else could be used against you in court.
- Hire a Shoplifting Defense Attorney. In shoplifting cases, the preparedness and skills of your lawyer make all the difference. Having the best defense on your side is crucial to preventing small mistakes from having big consequences. Before speaking to the police, tell them you want to speak to your lawyer, and contact our offices.
If you or someone you know has been accused of shoplifting, you’ll want the very best criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia investigating your case and developing the right approach to minimize negative impact these charges can have on your life. Contact our highly-qualified attorneys for a free consultation today.