PITTSBURGH RETAIL THEFT ATTORNEY

HOW IS THE CRIME OF RETAIL THEFT DEFINED IN PENNSYLVANIA?

Retail theft is one of the many theft crimes that is defined under Section 3929 of the Crimes Code. Simply put, retail theft, as its name suggests, concerns the theft of “merchandise” under five particular circumstances as outlined in the law. These circumstances can be summarized by these bullet points:

  • Taking or carrying away merchandise without paying full retail value;
  • Altering or removing pricing labels in effort to purchase merchandise for less than full retail value;
  • Transferring merchandise from its container to another with intent to deprive merchant of full retail value of the merchandise;
  • Under-ringing;
  • Manipulating inventory control tags or security strips to deprive merchant of merchandise

HOW SERIOUS IS RETAIL THEFT?

Unlike the grading of theft offenses generally under 18 Pa.C.S. § 3903, retail theft is graded differently as outlined in Section 3929(b). The grading scheme is as follows:

Summary offense if first offense and value of merchandise is less than $150

Second-degree misdemeanor if second offense and the value of the merchandise is less than $150

First-degree misdemeanor if first or second offense and the value of the merchandise is $150 or more

Third-degree felony if third or subsequent offense (value of merchandise irrelevant), or the amount involved “exceeds $1,000”, or the merchandise involved is a firearm or motor vehicle

CAN RETAIL THEFT CHARGES BE RESOLVED PRE-TRIAL?

Generally, in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, first-time retail-theft offenders who make restitution may benefit from a pre-trial diversion program that entails attending a course on retail theft. The completion of that program will result in the dismissal of the retail-theft charge and the ability to obtain an expungement of the person’s record.

This program, of course, is available at the discretion of the prosecutor, and it may not be an option in every case.

WHAT IS THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS?

A prosecution for retail theft must be commenced within five years after it is committed.

ARE THERE CIVIL PENALTIES FOR RETAIL THEFT?

Frequently those accused of retail theft, in addition to their criminal-court paperwork, will receive letters in the mail from retailers threatening a civil suit unless the person pays the retail value of the merchandise plus a penalty of $150.

Merchants are permitted to do this under 42 Pa.C.S. § 8308, which creates a civil action based on retail theft. This civil action is in addition to the criminal prosecution.

Anyone accused of retail theft should be mindful of this civil remedy and should consult with a lawyer before acting on the retailer’s letter since any payment to settle the retailer’s demand could implicitly operate as an admission of guilt, thus undermining any defense of the criminal prosecution for the same conduct.

 

If you or a loved one is charged with retail theft, call Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney, Ryan H. James, who has tried and argued these cases with successful results.  Attorney James can be personally reached at 412-977-1827, or by e-mail at ryan@rhjameslaw.com