Woman Faces Fines, Jail for Retail Theft
An Exton, Pennsylvania, woman who took $15 worth of food items from Wegmans Food Markets without paying for them has been charged with retail theft by local police. Chester County’s Daily Local News reported that on March 10, 2017, she was observed placing items into a bag as she roamed through the store. Retail theft is one of several types of theft crimes under Pennsylvania law, and it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances. A criminal defense attorney can explain more about the details of theft crimes and grading system as well as the potential penalties if you’re convicted. Still, some general information may help you understand the severity of the crime and why it’s important to retain an experienced lawyer.
General Definition of Theft
The umbrella definition of theft is an unlawful taking or disposition of property belonging to another person, with the intent to deprive the owner of using or enjoying it. To deprive is to withhold the property permanently or for such a time that it has lost significant value, or to dispose of an item in such a way that the owner won’t be able to recover it. Property may be movable, such as a car or personal belongings, or immovable; an example of immovable property may be a bank account.
Retail Theft Specifically
This theft crime occurs when a person takes possession of merchandise that’s offered for sale at a store or retail establishment, without paying for it. The definition includes altering an item’s label or tag in such a way that the offender doesn’t pay full retail value, as well as moving merchandise into a different container so that the tag reflects a lower price. A person may also be charged with retail theft for destroying or deactivating security devices with the intent to take possession of property belonging to the store.
Grading of Retail Theft Offenses in Pennsylvania
Retail theft is a low-level crime if it’s a first offense and the property taken is worth less than $150. However, the offense and penalties increase:
- A Second-Degree Misdemeanor charge applies if it’s the person’s second retail theft offense and the value is $150 or less.
- It’s a First-Degree Misdemeanor to steal merchandise valued at $150 or more regardless of past offenses.
- A person may be charged with a Third-Degree Felony for a third or subsequent offense regardless of the item’s value.
- It’s a Third-Degree Felony if the property value exceeds $1,000, or is a gun or car – regardless of past criminal history.