What is Theft by Unlawful Taking? | Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys
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What is Theft by Unlawful Taking?

Under Pennsylvania law, theft by unlawful taking is a criminal offense that is defined based on the kind of property involved. The manner in which the theft was committed and the value of the property allegedly stolen influences the kind of charges that the state can pursue, and the potential penalties may include lengthy prison terms and harsh fines. A theft charge is one of the most common offenses prosecuted by law enforcement and should not be taken lightly.

If you or someone you care about has been charged with theft in the Pittsburgh area, you need an experienced criminal attorney who will take the time to examine the facts of your case and explain your legal options. Don’t hesitate to call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC’s Pittsburgh theft attorneys at (412) 281-2146 for assistance today.

Two Forms of Theft

Under Pennsylvania statute, theft by unlawful taking may either be theft of movable property or theft of immovable property.

  • When the offense involves movable property, a person is guilty of theft if they unlawfully take, or exercises unlawful control over, another person’s movable property with the intent to deprive them of the property. The statute defines movable property as property the location of which can be changed, including items that are growing on, affixed to, or found in land. For example, shoplifting in a store would be considered as theft of movable property.
  • If the offense involves immovable property, a person is guilty of theft by unlawfully transferring or exercising unlawful control over immovable property owned by others, or any interest in that property, with the intent to benefit themselves or a third party. Immovable property includes, for example, a tangible interest in real estate, such as a house or land.

Grading of Theft Offenses and Penalties

Theft offenses are graded in Pennsylvania largely based on the value of the property involved or when the offense is committed.

  • Theft is considered a third-degree misdemeanor if the property involved was less than $50, and may result in up to a one-year jail term and a fine not exceeding $2,500. It is a second-degree misdemeanor if the amount involved was at least $50 but less than $200. If convicted, this may result in up to two years of jail time and up to a $5,000 fine. Otherwise, the theft will be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor with a possible jail term of five years and a fine not exceeding $10,000.
  • The charge will be a third-degree felony if it involves property valued at more than $2,000, or if the property is a car, motorcycle, boat, or other vehicle. The possible sentence upon conviction is up to seven years of prison and up to $15,000 in fines.
  • If the crime was committed during a man-made or natural disaster, or the property stolen is a firearm or any amount of anhydrous ammonia, the charge will be a second-degree felony which may carry a prison term of up to 10 years and up to a $25,000 fine.
  • If the crime involves an amount of $500,000 or more, then it is a first-degree felony. This is the most serious form of theft, and may carry a prison term of up to 20 years and a fine not exceeding $25,000.

Defending Against a Charge of Theft by Unlawful Taking

You should talk to an attorney right away once you discover that you’ve been charged with theft in Pennsylvania. You will need an experienced and compassionate advocate by your side so you can make the best possible decisions about your case and how to move forward.

Call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC’s Pittsburgh theft attorneys at (412) 281-2146 for a free, initial consultation today so we can help you craft an effective defense to the charges against you. Our attorneys have years of combined experience in criminal defense that they will use to help you reach a good resolution to your case.

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