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Theft Offenses

If you are charged with a theft in Pennsylvania, there can be serious consequences which could follow you for your entire life. Besides the possibility of jail time and/or probation, a theft offense on your rap sheet can have devastating consequences on future employment, future schooling, financial aid, and ability to rent an apartment, to name a few.

The grading for theft offenses in Pennsylvania range from a summary offense (non-criminal charge) all the way up to a felony, depending on the amount of property stolen. No matter what the amount of the theft is, you should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately to ensure that your rights are protected.

Some of the most common theft and theft related offenses in Pennsylvania are:

Theft by Unlawful Taking

This is the same as stealing. If you take someone’s property without their permission then you can be convicted of this crime.

Retail Theft (aka Shoplifting)

This crime occurs when someone steals property that is held for sale in a retail establishment. It also covers “tag-switching” and “under-ringing” a sale by a cashier. The law states that once someone passes all points of sale without paying for an item, then they can be convicted of this offense. An individual must have the intent to steal the property. If the theft is “accidental” then you may have the defense that you did not possess the requisite intent to steal the item.

Grading of Retail Theft

Retail theft is known as a progressive offense which means that the more it occurs, the more serious it becomes. If it is a first offense for retail theft and the value of the merchandise is less than $150, then it is graded as a summary offense. A summary offense is technically a non-criminal charge that does not rise to the level of a misdemeanor and is usually punishable by a fine. A non-traffic citation is typically mailed out which looks like a traffic ticket. However, even though a summary retail theft conviction is technically non-criminal, it will appear on your rap sheet in the event you are ever charged with a second offense. Even though this is not a criminal conviction it will look like one if a future employer discovers it on your rap sheet.

A first offense retail theft with a value of $151-$999 is a first degree misdemeanor. Merchandise taken with a value over $1000 is a third-degree felony.

Multiple Retail Theft convictions

A second conviction for retail theft is automatically a misdemeanor and a third or subsequent conviction is automatically a felony of the 3rd degree, no matter the value of the property.

Theft by deception

This crime occurs if you steal property of another while using deceit or deception. It covers creating a false impression, a.k.a. not telling the truth about an item. This crime also covers failing to correct false impression given to another individual about the property.

Receiving stolen property

This offense is almost always charged alongside a theft charge. It occurs if someone intentionally receives or keeps the property knowing that it was stolen. Once someone o possession of stolen property it is also considered Receiving Stolen Property.


Burglary occurs if someone enters the building without permission, with the intent of committing a criminal act. One does not have to “break in” to the building for it to be considered a burglary. Simply entering into a building without permission is sufficient. Burglary is a Felony and is considered to be a very serious crime in which jail time is a distinct possibility if convicted.


Robbery occurs when a theft occurs by force or threat of force. A weapon is not needed for a robbery to be charged and can even be charged for crimes of pickpocketing.


Forgery is charged when someone alters a writing of another individual without permission. Signing someone’s name to a check or credit card without permission are common examples. Depending on the case, Forgery is typically graded as a Felony, but in some instances it can be a Misdemeanor.

Identity Theft

This crime has become increasingly prevalent in the last decade. Identity Theft occurs when someone uses any identifying information of another without that person’s consent. Such identifying information can be a name, social security number, date of birth, or other identifying information belonging to another person. This crime can be charged as either a Misdemeanor or Felony and usually is accompanied by other charges, such as Forgery, Theft or Access Device Fraud.

Theft of Lost or Mislaid Property

This crime is also on the rise in Pennsylvania. This occurs if you find a property that is not yours and you keep it. In Pennsylvania, there is no such thing as “Finders Keepers” and if you find property that is not yours, you must make some attempt to locate the owner through proper channels. This crime typically occurs frequently inside Casinos, where individuals find a wallet, a purse, or a casino voucher and decide to keep it, rather than turn it in.

Intent to Commit a Theft

The state must prove the actor’s intent for any theft offense. Intent as it relates to a theft offense means that the person stealing the item intended to deprive the owner of the property, i.e. keep it for his own purposes.

No matter what the theft offense, a conviction for this crime on your rap sheet can have a negative effect on your freedom and your future. It is best to immediately contact and experience criminal defense attorney to assist you in your defense. The experienced lawyers at Ellis B. Klein & Associates have handled thousands of theft cases. Call (800) 536-0501for a free consultation.

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