One of the many valuable rights protected in the U.S. is your right to keep what is yours and not lose it to other individuals, businesses, or the government without your consent. This fundamental right is so important that taking something that belongs to someone else is not only considered immoral, it is illegal.
If you are accused of stealing, you should speak with a theft attorney at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC right away. Some instances of theft are charged as minor crimes and have minimal punishments. However, the crime of theft is quickly elevated to a felony if the property was valuable, specifically protected by law, or you are accused of hurting or threatening someone during the act. A one-time mistake or misunderstanding could have you facing a serious felony punishable by years in prison.
It is up to you to do everything you can to protect and defend yourself, and the best thing you can do is hire an experienced and aggressive theft attorney. Call the Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyers of Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC at (412) 281-2146 right away.
Common Theft Crimes You May Face in Pennsylvania
There are numerous theft offenses you can be charged with in Pennsylvania based on the exact allegations against you. At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, our theft lawyers have experience defending against these crimes, including:
- Theft by Unlawful Taking– You can be charged with a theft offense under 18 Pa. Code §3921 if you take, transfer, or exercise control over movable or immovable property with the intent to deprive the owner of their rightful property and benefit yourself. Moveable property includes items like jewelry and electronics. Immovable property encompasses real estate and investments.
- Theft by Deception– 18 Pa. Code §3922 states you can be charged with theft if you intentionally obtain or keep property from the rightful owner through deception. This can involve creating and maintaining a false impression, preventing the owner from finding out important information, or failing to correct a false impression.
- Receiving Stolen Property– If you intentionally receive, keep, or dispose of movable property that you know or believe was stolen, then based on 18 Pa. Code §3925, you can be charged with theft.
- Retail Theft– Per 18 Pa. Code §3929, you can be charged with retail theft if you take, carry away, transfer, or cause a store’s merchandise that is offered for sale to be carried away without paying for the item. You can also be charged with retail theft if you switch or alter an item’s tags, or if you destroy or remove any security tags. Retail theft is graded differently than other theft offenses. For merchandise worth less than $150 on a first-time offense, you will face a summary offense. For merchandise worth between $150 and $999, expect to face a first-degree misdemeanor. Merchandise worth more than $1,000 is a third-degree felony. Being caught shoplifting can be embarrassing, yet do not panic. Call a theft lawyer to discuss your options.
- Burglary– You can be charged with burglary, outlined in 18 Pa. Code §3502, if you unlawfully enter a building or occupied structure, with or without people inside, with the intent to commit a crime. You will typically be charged with a second or first-degree felony. The charges depend on whether individuals were present in the structure and whether you intended to commit bodily harm during a crime such as assault, kidnapping, or rape.
- Forgery– 18 Pa. Code §4101 states you can be charged with forgery if you, with the intent to injure or defraud someone, or with the knowledge that you are facilitating fraud or harm, alter any writing without permission; make, complete, authenticate, or transfer any writing so it purports to be the act of another person; or use a writing you know to be forged. Under the law, a writing includes money, stamps, credit cards, trademarks, electronic signatures, and other symbols of value and identification. Forgery is a first-degree misdemeanor, unless the writing is a will, contract, deed, or other commercial instruments, then it is a third-degree felony. The offense is a second-degree felony if the writing is money, stamps, investments, or a government instrument.
- Passing Bad Checks– Accidentally writing a check that bounces is not a crime. However, it is illegal to intentionally write checks knowing they will not be honored by the bank. If you do, under 18 Pa. Code §4105, you may be charged with a summary offense, misdemeanor, or felony based on the value of the check. Less than $200 is a summary offense, while a check for more than $75,000 leads to a third-degree felony. If you are experiencing an embarrassing misunderstanding about a bad check, let a theft attorney help.
- Intellectual Property Theft– There are many types of intellectual property theft under state and federal law, including counterfeiting trademarks and copyright infringement. If you are facing charges for a federal intellectual property theft offense, contact a theft attorney right away. You may face years in prison and significant fines.
The Levels of Pennsylvania Theft Offenses
The specific charge you face for a theft offense depends on a number of factors, including the type and value of the property you allegedly stole, your criminal history, and whether you used violence or threats of violence during the offense.
Theft offenses are typically charged as:
- Third-degree misdemeanor theft– The value was less than $50.
- Second-degree misdemeanor theft– The value was between $50 and $199.
- First-degree misdemeanor theft– The value is between $200 and $2,000.
- Third-degree felony theft– When the value is between $2,001 and $99,999.
- Second-degree felony theft– The value of the property is between $100,000 and $499,999.
- First-degree felony theft– When the value involved is $500,000 or more.
However, if you have one or more other theft offenses on your criminal record, then your charge may be heightened. In any case, a theft attorney is necessary to defend against the theft accusations and fight for an acquittal in court.
The Potential Punishments for Pennsylvania Theft Crimes
The particular statutory penalty you face depends on the degree of the misdemeanor or felony offense. For third, second, and first-degree misdemeanors, you face up to one, two, or five years in jail and fines up to $2,000, $5,000, and $10,000, respectively. If you are charged with a third or second-degree felony, then you may be sentenced to a maximum of seven or 10 years in prison, as well as up to $15,000 or $25,000 in fines, respectively. A first-degree felony can result in up to 20 years in prison, and fines reaching $25,000.
Given the potential incarceration and financial outcome of your case, it is essential that you work with a theft attorney from Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC who understands your situation and is prepared to aggressively defend you in court.
Facing Collateral Consequences of a Theft Offense Conviction
If you are convicted of any type of theft offense, you can expect to face multiple secondary consequences once you are released from jail or prison. Back in your community, you may face hurdles with returning to school, maintaining a job, getting a loan, renting an apartment or house, keeping custody of or visitation with your children, and maintaining a lawful immigration status. These difficulties will likely be more challenging to overcome the more serious your theft offense is.
How We Can Defend You Against Theft Allegations
If someone is accusing you of stealing, talk with our theft attorneys about your defense options. Depending on the facts of your case, one of our theft attorneys may be able to claim:
- There has been a case of mistaken identity
- You did not possess the necessary intent to commit theft
- You had permission to possess, control, or keep the property
- The property was lost or abandoned by its previous owner
- You acted under duress
Call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC Today
With one of the experienced and skilled theft lawyers of Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC on your side, you have the benefit of a thorough and objective analysis of your case. We will review every fact and take a clear look as to whether it helps or hinders your case. With this knowledge, we can build you the strongest defense available under the law. While always fighting for your exoneration, we will also prepare to minimize any potential penalties and other consequences of a theft conviction.