Shoplifting and retail theft are serious offenses in Pennsylvania. If convicted, you could face heavy fines and a lengthy jail sentence. In some cases, the theft might be serious enough for felony charges to apply, in which case you may face trouble getting a job or going to college because of your criminal record. For this reason, you should contact an experienced Pittsburgh retail theft lawyer who can help fight your theft offense as soon as you learn of the charges filed against you.
At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, we apply our skills in criminal law and passion for advocacy towards obtaining excellent results for our clients. Our Pittsburgh criminal lawyers are ready to help you fight your retail theft charges today.
The Consequences of Misdemeanor Retail Theft
Pennsylvania Statutes Title 18, Chapter 38, section 3929 defines retail theft as taking merchandise from a retail establishment without paying the full retail value with the intention of depriving the merchant. So if you leave the store without paying, remove or change price tags or labels, transfer merchandise into new containers, cause a cash register to “under-ring” an item, or tamper with security devices with criminal intent, you may be charged with retail theft.
When the value of the stolen merchandise is less than $150, and you have no prior convictions for related charges, you may face a maximum sentence of 90 days’ jail time along with fines of up to $300.
A second offense involving merchandise valued at less than $150 is considered as a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to two years of incarceration and fines that can reach $5,000.
For a first or second offense involving merchandise of $150 or more, first-degree misdemeanor charges will apply. If convicted, you could receive a sentence of five years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
In Some Cases, You Can Receive Felony Charged For Retail Theft
You may be charged with a third-degree felony for the third retail theft offense—regardless of the value of the merchandise, you stole. Third-degree felony charges may also apply for a first offense involving the theft of a firearm or merchandise valued at $2,000 or more. If convicted, the penalty could be as high as seven years’ incarceration and fines reaching $15,000.
Under Pennsylvania’s laws of criminal restitution, you may have to pay back the store from which you stole. This payment is independent of any fines that you may receive as part of your sentence. Further, the retailer may sue you in civil court to recover damages resulting from the theft. If you lose, you may also be liable to pay the retailer’s court costs and attorney fees.
How to Overcome Your Retail Theft Charges by Hiring a Pittsburgh Retail Theft Lawyer
The consequences of a conviction retail theft can be harsh. In addition to the hardship of incarceration, you could face the crippling financial responsibilities of paying fines and restitution to the retailer. The best way to avoid these consequences is to invest in quality legal representation as soon as you are charged.
An experienced Pittsburgh retail theft lawyer will be able to counsel you on how to respond to the questions of law enforcement and prosecutors. In addition, your lawyer can prepare a defense for your case involving any of the following strategies:
- If the store detained you without probable cause, you may be able to sue them for false imprisonment
- If the officers performing your arrest fail to read your Miranda rights, it may be possible to suppress any incriminating statements you made to them during the arrest or your subsequent detention and interrogation
- It may be possible to demonstrate that you failed to act knowingly or willingly
- The prosecution may lack the evidence to show beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the acts of which you are accused
- At trial, a skillful attorney can use the rules of evidence and criminal procedure to hamper the prosecution’s ability to present evidence against you
- If you receive a guilty verdict, it may be possible to advocate for a lenient sentence based on mitigating factors that could apply to your case
If you’ve been charged with retail theft, we can help. Call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC today for a free and confidential consultation of your case at (412) 281-2146.