Under the law, people have exclusive rights to their property, and others are not allowed to take an individual’s or business’s property without permission. When you are accused of taking someone’s property without permission in Westmoreland County, PA you can be charged with theft, which is best addressed by a criminal defense lawyer in Greensburg. Certain offenses, like shoplifting a small item is a minor summary offense; however, if a theft reaches a certain value, it can be a felony, punishable by years in prison. This is in addition to a crime of dishonesty being permanently attached to your criminal record. Because of the serious nature of any theft accusation and charge, you need to hire a theft attorney as soon as possible.
Our theft defense lawyers at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys are here to protect your rights during an investigation and through the criminal court process. We will fight to secure the best possible outcome in your case. This may be getting the charges dropped or reduced. We may also recommend pursuing a plea to mitigate the consequences of a conviction. Or, we may believe there is a strong chance of obtaining an acquittal if we go to trial.
What Is Theft?
The definition of theft is fairly simple. You can be charged with a theft-related crime if you take another person’s property or services without permission or by exerting control over another person’s property or services without their consent. Theft means you obtain something of value, whether it is a tangible or intangible benefit, that you do not deserve. If you are accused of stealing or another type of theft in Greensburg, do not hesitate to call the theft lawyers at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys for help.
Pennsylvania Theft Laws
Pennsylvania has several laws that prohibit and punish different theft offenses, including:
- Theft by Unlawful Taking (18 Pa. Code §3921): You can be charged with this theft by unlawful taking if you take, transfer, or exercise control over any movable or immovable property with the intent to deprive the owner of their property and benefit yourself. Immovable property includes things like land, buildings, stocks, bonds, and other investments. Movable property are items you can move from one place to another, such as vehicles, jewelry, electronics, and paintings. The exact level of theft you will face depends on the value of the property. You could face between a third-degree misdemeanor and third-degree felony.
- Theft by Deception (18 Pa. Code §3922): Under this charge, you allegedly committed a theft through the use of some deception, such as creating and maintaining a false impression; failing to correct a false impression that you know is influencing the property owner; or preventing the property owner from finding out important information that could impact their judgment or decision. Theft by deception could be an elaborate scheme, such as a fake contest, or it could be a one-time event, like providing a fake identity or financial information to the property owner. There are exceptions to this law, such as if you made a false statement about an immaterial matter or if you exaggerated about something in a way that would not decide an ordinary person. If you are charged with theft by deception, you could face a third-, second-, or first-degree misdemeanor or a third-degree felony.
- Retail Theft (18 Pa. Code §3929): Pennsylvania’s retail theft prohibits shoplifting merchandise from a store. You can be charged with retail theft if you take merchandise without paying; alter or switch an item’s tags; or remove, destroy, or circumvent security tags and other security measures. Shoplifting is not charged and penalized the same as theft by unlawful taking or deception. You may face a summary offense for stealing inventory worth less than $150 if it is your first offense. The next level charge is a first-degree misdemeanor, and for inventory worth more than $1,000, you will face a third-degree felony.
Fraud Crimes in Pennsylvania
Fraud in Pennsylvania is a type of criminal conduct closely related to theft. A fraud offense is one in which you use deception to unlawfully obtain something of value, such as money, investments, property, or services. If you are accused of fraudulent conduct in Greensburg, there are several different statutes you can be charged under.
A common form of fraud is credit card fraud (18 Pa. Code §4601). In Pennsylvania, this is referred to as access device fraud. Access devices include all types of debit, credit, bank, and ATM cards, or any other card linked to a financial account. You can be charged with credit card fraud if you use another person’s card without permission; use a canceled or revoked card; or use an altered, incomplete, or counterfeit card. Depending on your alleged conduct and the value of the money or services you unlawfully obtained, you could be charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense.
You also can be charged with insurance fraud, food stamp fraud, home improvement fraud, and other offenses. For first-time offenses that do not result in significant value, you may face a misdemeanor charge. However, many fraud offenses are charged as felonies, and you may face years in jail or prison if you are convicted.
Other Types of Theft & Fraud Crimes
At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, our theft attorneys handle all types of theft and fraud claims in and around Greensburg. You should call us right away if you are being investigated or have been arrested for:
- Burglary (18 Pa. Code §3502): Burglary often involves theft, but it does not have to. You can be charged with burglary if you unlawfully enter or remain in a building or occupied structure, that does or does not have people inside, and you have the intent to commit a crime inside. That crime could be theft, assault, kidnapping, rape, or any other offense. The criminal charge you face for burglary depends on whether other individuals were present in the building or structure and whether you intended to commit bodily harm. Burglary is often charged as a second- or first-degree felony.
- Embezzlement (18 Pa. Code §3927): Embezzlement occurs when you use a position of trust or authority within a fiduciary relationship to unlawfully obtain money. A common example of embezzlement would be an account using their position of trust with their clients to funnel their money into a secret account. Embezzlement is charged like theft, which means the level of the charge depends on the value of the money or property you obtained. You could face a misdemeanor or felony charge.
- Identity Theft (18 Pa. Code §4120): If you possess or use, though any means, another person’s identifying information without permission and for an unlawful purpose, then you can be charged with identity theft. Identifying information may be someone’s name, phone number, address, bank account numbers, debit card number and PIN, driver’s license number, Social Security Number and much more. This is a serious offense, and the charge you will face depends on the value of the property or services you unlawfully obtained, like other theft crimes. You could be charged with a misdemeanor or felony, either of which could lead to jail time for theft.
- Forgery (18 Pa. Code §4101): You will be charged with forgery if you alter any writing without permission make, complete, transfer, or authenticate any writing so that it purports to be the act of another person; or use a writing you know is forged, and you do so with the intent to injure or defraud someone or knowing that you are facilitating fraud. It is important to note that a writing is not just a document. It could be money, stamps, credit cards, debit cards, electronic signatures, trademarks, and anything else that is a simple of identification or value. Forgery can be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor, third-degree felony, or a second-degree felony.
Penalties for Theft in Greensburg
If you are accused of a theft or fraud offense in Greensburg, PA, then you could face a charge as low as a summary offense or third-degree misdemeanor. However, many theft and fraud crimes are charged as third-, second-, and first-degree felonies. Whatever the level, you face incarceration, fines, and other penalties. You need to call a theft attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights and build a strong defense.
The potential statutory penalties for theft include:
- Summary Offense: Fines up to $300, and imprisonment up to 90 days.
- Third-Degree Misdemeanor: Fines reaching $2,000 and up to one year of imprisonment.
- Second-Degree Misdemeanor: A maximum fine of $5,000, and up to two years of incarceration.
- First-Degree Misdemeanor: Fines up to $10,000 and a maximum of five years of imprisonment.
- Third-Degree Felony: Fines reaching $15,000 and up to seven years in prison.
- Second-Degree Felony: A fine up to $25,000 and up 10 years of incarceration.
- First-Degree Felony: A $25,000 fine and a maximum of 20 years in prison.
In addition to incarceration and fines, you may have to pay court fees and restitution to the victims of your crime. After you fulfill your term of imprisonment, you may be required to abide by many strict rules during probation, which can last months or years.
Secondary Consequences of a Criminal Conviction
If you are convicted of a theft or fraud crime in Greensburg, you can expect both statutory penalties and collateral consequences. Having a permanent criminal record will impact your life long after you’re released or even if you avoid any time in custody.
Some of the most common consequences of a theft conviction on your record include:
- Hurdles returning to school and obtaining financial aid
- Finding and keeping a job
- Hurdles obtaining certain professional licenses
- Being approved for a rental apartment or house
- Obtaining personal loans, like an auto loan for a new or used car
- Limitations on child custody or visitation
- Immigration challenges, such as the loss of a visa, denial of a permanent residency or citizenship status, or deportation
- Loss of the right to vote during incarceration and probation
- If convicted of a felony, the loss of your right to own or possess firearms
- Difficulty traveling abroad for work or fun
Let a Theft Attorney Defend You Against Theft or Fraud Charges
When prosecutors have charged you with a theft or fraud crime, you need to work with a theft lawyer to determine how to best protect your rights, and vigorously defend you in court if necessary. There are several ways to potentially defend against the charges, including:
- There has been a mistake of identity.
- You have an alibi for the time of the offense.
- You had consent from the property owner.
- You did not have the necessary intent to commit the theft or fraud crime.
- The property was abandoned or lost by the previous owner.
- You were acting under duress.
- These are false allegations, and the crime never took place.
- There is insufficient evidence to prove you committed the offense.
Call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys For Help Today
You do not—and should not—face theft or fraud charges alone. After being charged with a theft crime, the best thing you can do for yourself is contact a theft attorney from Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC . We have decades of experience defending against theft offenses in Westmoreland County and track record of getting our clients the best possible outcomes.