In Pennsylvania shoplifting is called "Retail Theft." There is a statute in the Pennsylvania Crimes Code entitled "Retail Theft" which defines what conduct is illegal in retail stores. The Retail Theft statute can be found at 18 Pa.C.S. Sec. 3929.
The Pennsylvania Retail Theft law makes the following conduct illegal:
- taking merchandise out of a retail store without paying for it;
- altering a price tag in a store with the intention of paying a lower price for the item;
- taking an item in a store out of its packaging and putting it in another container with the intent of stealing that item;
- under-ringing merchandise (as a cashier)
- destroying, tampering or removing a security tag from an item with the intent of stealing the item.
It is important to note that in Pennsylvania there is a presumption that you are stealing merchandise from a retail store if you conceal the item(s). Have you ever been in a convenience store and accidentally put a pack of gum in your coat pocket or pants pocket? Have you ever put store items in a bag of previously purchased items from another store? If you have, you could be prosecuted criminally under Pennsylvania law. As a criminal lawyer, every time I go into a retail establishment I am very conscious about where I place my items because of this presumption. It is important for all Pennsylvania residents to do the same.
The penalties for Retail Theft depend upon how many prior retail theft convictions are on your record and the value of the item(s) stolen. Retail Theft crimes are graded as follows:
First offense & value is less than $150 = Summary
First offense & value is greater than $140 = Misdemeanor 1st Degree
Second offense & value is less than $150 = Misdemeanor 2nd Degree
Second offense & value is greater than $150 = Misdemeanor 1st Degree
Third and subsequent offense = Felony 3rd Degree
Amount is greater than $2000 = Felony 3rd Degree
Interestingly enough, your first two Retail Theft offenses enhance the grading of future Retail Theft offense but do not count toward your prior record score at sentencing.
Retail Theft cases have common fact patterns. Typically, a suspect will be monitored by a loss prevention officer (LPO) (store security officer) via surveillance from a back room. Once the LPO observes the suspect either concealing merchandise or walking past registers without paying for the items, he will detain the suspect and bring him or her into a back room for questioning. The LPO will secure the videotape and be available to testify in court. If you are a suspect in a Retail Theft crime, it is important to remain silent when questioned by the LPO. LPO's have a lot of experience handling these types of cases. In some instances, they know the law just as good if not better than police. Do not incriminate yourself! Tell them you will not answer any questions without your lawyers present.
When I served in the District Attorney's Office, all Retail Theft cases in the county were exclusively assigned to a specialty courtroom. I was assigned to this courtroom and prosecuted hundreds of Retail Theft cases. I have experience prosecuting and defending Retail Theft cases. I have seen the best defenses and know what works and what doesn't. Everyday in my criminal defense practice I utilize the experience I gained as a Retail Theft prosecutor to try to outthink and outwit the prosecution.
Contact, Jason R. Antoine, former Retail Theft Prosecutor if you or a loved one has been charged with Retail Theft and possibly other crimes.
The Pennsylvania Sentencing guidelines base your punishment on your prior record score (prior criminal record) and the offense gravity score of the crime (how serious your crime was).