PITTSBURGH THEFT DEFENSE ATTORNEY

HOW IS THE CRIME OF THEFT DEFINED IN PENNSYLVANIA?

Pennsylvania criminalizes the generic crime of theft in many different ways dependent upon the circumstances. It’s common, therefore, that persons accused of theft face differing theft charges all pertaining to the same alleged conduct.

Chapter 39 of the Crimes Code outlines all of the theft offenses in Pennsylvania.  These are the most commonly charged:

HOW SERIOUS IS THEFT?

Section 3903 of the Crimes Code controls the grading of Pennsylvania’s theft offenses. Theft offenses can range from summary offenses to first-degree felonies depending upon the particular theft offense charged, the nature of the item that was stolen, and the value of the item.

 

Under these circumstances, a theft offense will be graded as a first-degree felony:

  • Theft by receiving stolen property is charged, and the property received, retained or disposed of is a firearm and the receiver is in the business of buying or selling stolen property.
  • The amount involved is $500,000 or more.

 

Under these circumstances, a theft offense will be graded as a second-degree felony:

  • The theft offense charged is under Sections 3921, 3925, 3928, or 3929, and is committed during a manmade, natural, or war-caused disaster.
  • The property stolen is a firearm.
  • Theft by receiving stolen property is charged, and the property received, retained or disposed of is a firearm.
  • The property stolen is any amount of anhydrous ammonia.
  • The amount involved is $100,000 or more but less than $500,000.

 

Under these circumstances, a theft offense will be graded as a third-degree felony:

  • The property stolen is an automobile, airplane, motorcycle, motorboat, or other motor-propelled vehicle.
  • Theft by receiving stolen property is charged, and the receiver is in the business of buying or selling stolen property.
  • The amount involved exceeds $2,000, but less than $100,000.

 

Under these circumstances, a theft offense will be graded as a third-degree misdemeanor:

  • The amount involved is less than $50, and the property was not taken from a person, or by threat, or by breach of fiduciary obligation.

 

Under these circumstances, a theft offense will be graded as a second-degree misdemeanor:

  • The amount involved is $50 or more but less than $200, and the property was not taken from a person, or by threat, or by breach of fiduciary obligation.

 

In all other circumstances not outlined above, theft is a first-degree misdemeanor.

CAN THEFT CHARGES BE RESOLVED PRE-TRIAL?

Some theft offenses are eligible for dismissal “upon satisfaction or agreement” under Rules 546 and 586 of Pennsylvania’s Rules of Criminal Procedure. These two rules—one applying to magistrate proceedings and one applying to court cases in the court of common pleas—provide that theft offenses may be dismissed “upon motion” and provided certain factors are met. Those are:

  • The offense at issue makes no allegations that it was committed by force or violence or threat of violence;
  • The public interest will not be adversely affected;
  • The attorney for the Commonwealth consents to the dismissal;
  • Satisfaction has been made to the aggrieved person, or there is an agreement that satisfaction will be made; and
  • There is an agreement as to who will pay the costs.

Rule 546 which applies to magistrate proceedings provides that magistrates may dismiss under similar circumstances, but it may never dismiss where the most serious offense charged is a felony.

WHAT IS THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS?

All theft offenses under Chapter 39, except for Section 3934 (Theft from a motor vehicle) and Section 3935.1 (Theft of secondary metal), must be commenced within five years after they are committed.

 

If you or a loved one is charged with a theft crime, 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