What is Theft by Unlawful Taking?
The Pennsylvania Criminal Code 18 Pa.C.S. Sec. 3921 defines theft as theft by unlawful taking or disposition. Meaning you could be charged under this statute if you were to steal property from another with the intent to deprive them of the property. This statute divides theft into two categories: movable and unmovable.
Theft by Unlawful Taking: Movable Property
You can be charged with movable theft under Pennsylvania law if you unlawfully take movable property or exercise control over it with the intent to deprive the owner. Movable property includes items like jewelry or electronics.
Theft by Unlawful Taking: Immovable Property
You can be charged with immovable theft under Pennsylvania law if you unlawfully transfer or exercise control over immovable property when the property is owned by another party with the intent to benefit yourself or somebody else. An example of immovable property would be a house or tract of land.
Theft vs Retail Theft
Under Pennsylvania law, if you commit theft it means you took property from another person, not from a store or business. In Pennsylvania, theft and shoplifting are separate offenses because if you were to steal property from a store you would be charged with retail theft, not unlawful taking.
Penalties for Theft by Unlawful Taking
Under Pennsylvania law, the seriousness of the grading for theft is based on the value of the property taken. Sentencing for Theft By Unlawful Taking can vary as the charge can be graded as a Misdemeanor or a Felony. Below is a summary of the grades based on the value of the property that was taken:
In most cases, if the property’s value is:
- More than $2000 — felony of the third degree, punished with up to seven years in prison and a fine up to $15,000
- $2,000 to $200 — misdemeanor of the first degree, punished with up to five years in prison and a fine up to $10,000
- $200 to $50 — misdemeanor of the second degree, punished with up to two years in prison and a fine up to $5,000
- Less than $50 — misdemeanor of the third degree, punished with up to one year in prison and a fine up to $2,500
If the theft took place during a natural or man-made disaster, or if the stolen property was a firearm, the offense can be graded as a felony of the second degree punished with up to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $25,000.
Steps To Take If You Have Been Charged
- If you have been charged with theft, your first step should be to immediately hire a lawyer. This criminal charge can have a long-lasting impact on your life if you’re convicted, making it difficult to get a job, pass a background check, rent an apartment, or more.
- Don’t talk to the police or prosecutors unless your attorney is with you.
- When you meet with your lawyer, be sure to tell your lawyer everything that happened both before and during your arrest.
Although the decision to commit a theft is very often impulsive and made on the spur of the moment, the effects of a theft conviction are long-lasting and very negative. In Pennsylvania, you can be jailed or fined for theft. However for many people one of the most troubling outcomes is having a criminal record with a theft charge on it.
Your criminal record is easily seen by any potential employer who does a background check, and you will be shut out of a wide range of jobs, from banking to sales. If you are questioned by the police or arrested for theft, it’s important to retain an experienced and aggressive defense attorney as soon as you can.