West Chester

Theft Lawyer

Theft charges are among the most common offenses seen in Pennsylvania’s courts. While the precise penalties largely depend on the value taken and the history of the accused, any theft accusation needs to be taken seriously by working with a veteran criminal defense lawyer. Aside from possible time behind bars, a theft conviction regardless of the amount involved will mark you as a dishonest person, making job searches and advancement a real challenge.

If you’ve been arrested for theft, from shoplifting to fraud in West Chester, Phoenixville, Kennett Square, Oxford, Coatesville, or anywhere in Chester County, contact an experienced and aggressive theft lawyer at Skinner Law Firm. As a former Assistant District Attorney in Chester County, Michael J. Skinner knows how theft cases work, what diversion options are available, and how to best handle your defense.

At Skinner Law Firm, we know what you are dealing with and what it takes to secure the best possible outcome in a theft case. Call (610) 436-1410 today or contact us online for a free, initial consultation with attorney Skinner.

Pennsylvania Theft Laws & Charges

Under Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 18 § 3921, a person commits a theft by unlawful taking if he or she exercises unlawful control over the movable or immovable property of another with the intent to deprive the owner to benefit himself or someone not entitled to the property in question.

Some of the most common theft violations in Pennsylvania that can result in fines or even imprisonment include, but are not limited to:

  • Theft by Deception – Under Title 18 § 3922 this occurs when a person intentionally obtains or keeps the property of another through use of deception.
  • Retail Theft/Shoplifting – Title 18 § 3929 – Shoplifting in PA is defined as taking possession or removing merchandise from a store with the intent to deprive the store of this merchandise. A person also can commit retail theft if they alter or remove any labels, tags, or security devices from merchandise with the intent to deprive the store. If a person intentionally conceals merchandise, they are presumed to have done so with the intent to deprive the store.
  • Credit Card Fraud – Also known as Access Device Fraud in PA, Title 18 § 4601 makes any fraudulent credit card activity illegal. A person is guilty of credit card fraud if they use or try to use a card, knowing that it is counterfeit, altered, or incomplete, unauthorized for their use, or has bs been canceled.
  • Employee Theft – Title 18 § 3929 – Theft by failure to make required disposition of funds or embezzlement is a theft charge in PA that refers to obtaining another’s property for your own benefit through an agreement or as part of the accused’s duties. In most cases, the accused was entrusted with the property as part of their employment.
  • Receiving Stolen Property – Title 18 § 3925 – A person can be convicted of this offense if they intentionally received, kept, or disposes of movable property of someone else’s, knowing or believing the property was stolen.
  • Forgery – Title 18 § 4101 – Defines this offense as altering any writing of someone else without his authority or making a writing that appears to be the act of someone else with the intent or knowledge to defraud or injure someone.
  • Writing Bad Checks – Under Title 18 § 4105 – A person can be convicted of this offense if they write a check or some other payment of money, knowing it will not be paid due to a closed account, insufficient funds, it was counterfeit, or any other method that will not allow the check to be paid.

Pennsylvania Theft Terms & Definitions

  • Conceal” – Concealment of merchandise for the purposes of theft in Pennsylvania means to hide the merchandise so that it is not visible through ordinary observation.
  • Deception” – In Pennsylvania, deception can be creating a false impression, or reinforcing someone else’s false impression; preventing someone else from acquiring information that would affect his decision as to whether to make a decision; or failing to correct a false impression. This does not include exaggerations that would not deceive an ordinary person or matters that do not involve financial gain.
  • Merchandise” – Any goods, items, food or wares of any type and description, regardless of the value.
  • Receiving” – For the purpose of theft in Pennsylvania, this term means to acquire possession of the property, control of title of the property, or use the property as security to receive a loan.
  • Writing” – for the purposes of theft offenses, writing includes printing or any other method of recording information, coins, credit cards, electronic signatures, money, tokens, seals, stamps, trademarks, and other symbols of value or identification.

our awards & memberships

  • A professional non-profit dedicated to the improvement of the criminal defense bar, and to providing valuable information to the public about drunk driving laws. Members of the NCDD are considered the most experienced DUI defense attorneys in the United States and Canada.

  • The preeminent organization in the United States. NACDL serves as a leader in identifying and reforming flaws in the criminal justice system, and addressing systemic racism, and ensuring that the criminal defense bar is fully equipped to serve all accused persons at the highest level.

  • PACDL is the premier network of the best defense attorneys in PA with a mission to educate, advocate, and inspire by providing support for criminal defense lawyers, promoting effective competence, leveling the playing field, and protecting freedoms.

  • The Pennsylvania Bar Association promotes and protects the legal profession, the rights of Pennsylvania citizens and access to justice for all. Membership is open to any lawyer in good standing who is licensed by the Bar of Pennsylvania.

  • The American Bar Association is one of the world’s largest voluntary professional organizations, with over 400,000 members and more than 3,500 entities. Their mission is to serve its members, the legal profession, and the public by defending liberty and delivering justice as the national representative of the legal profession.

  • The CCBA promotes professionalism, inclusion, and collegiality within the Chester County legal profession, and enhances the quality of life of its members and the practice of law within the community.

  • The NORML Legal Committee (NLC) is composed of attorneys committed to the overall goals of NORML. NLC attorneys meet each year to discuss emerging legal issues related to defense of marijuana consumers and to support each other in the pursuit of justice.

  • The American Institute’s Criminal Law Division is an impartial third-party rating service recognizing the excellence of fellow practitioners. To help clients across the United States make educated decisions, we compile an exclusive list of the “10 Best” Attorneys for each State. Our “10 Best” is a prestigious honor extended only to those who have reached the top of their profession while doing so with the client’s satisfaction being of paramount importance.

  • The American Institute’s DUI/DWI Division recognizes the excellence of practitioners in the field of DUI/DWI defense. We compile an exclusive list of the “10 Best” Attorneys for each State for potential clients to utilize. We look for Attorneys that have achieved unparalleled success but most importantly have done so for the benefit of their client. Very few Attorneys can do so and our organization recognizes this significant achievement.

  • Attorney Michael Skinner has been consistently recognized as among the best lawyers in Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties. Attorneys are nominated via peer balloting, then vetted through our editorial process in various fields of practice.

  • The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 is an invitation-only organization composed of the premier trial lawyers from each state. Membership is extended only to the most qualified attorneys who demonstrate superior qualifications of leadership, reputation, influence, stature and public profile. Each of our distinguished members possesses the knowledge, skill, experience, and success held by only the best and finest lawyers in America.

  • The Super Lawyers list recognizes no more than 5 percent of attorneys in each state. The Rising Stars further distinguishes no more than 2.5 percent of attorneys, and to be eligible, a Rising Stars candidate must be either 40 years old or younger, or in practice for 10 years or less who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.

Penalties for a PA Theft Conviction

Theft charges in Pennsylvania can be classified as felonies or misdemeanors based on several factors. These include the monetary value of what was taken, the type of property in question, the accused’s prior criminal history, and if violence was used or threatened in the commission of the crime.

Less than $50

Third-Degree Misdemeanor Theft/Summary Offense – Up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Between $50 and $199

Second-Degree Misdemeanor Theft – Up to two years in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Between $200 and $2,000

First- Degree Misdemeanor Theft – Up to five years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

Between $2,001 and $99,999

Third-Degree Felony Theft – Up to seven years in prison and $15,000 in fines.

Between $100,000 and $499,999

Second-Degree Felony Theft – Up to 10 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.

$500,000 or More

First-Degree Felony Theft – Up to 20 years in prison, and fines reaching $25,000.

There are also instances that can heighten or reduce the penalties you face for a theft charge. For instance, a first offense for shoplifting less than $150 in merchandise, it will likely be charged as a summary offense, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $300 fine. However, penalties increase for subsequent offenses, and if you’re charged with repeated retail theft, prosecutors can use the alleged total value taken to escalate the offense rather than the amount from a single incident.

You can also face more severe penalties if the theft occurred during a disaster or the item stolen was a firearm.

Additional Theft Consequences

Even if you avoid time in custody, a theft conviction can lead to other punishments. These include months or years of probation, theft diversion classes, and paying restitution to the victims. There are also secondary repercussions to living with theft on your permanent criminal record, like an inability to hold certain professional licenses as well as finding and maintaining employment. Also, as a crime of moral turpitude, a theft conviction may cause serious immigration issues.

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Defending Against Chester County Theft Charges

If you are ever arrested for theft in Pennsylvania, protecting your record and preserving your freedom should always be the priority. By working with an experienced theft lawyer, you can carefully review all your options and pursue the course of action that works best for you.

In some situations, we can refute the value of what was allegedly taken to reduce the charges to something more manageable. We’ve also seen people benefit from participating in theft diversion programs that ultimately lead to having the case dismissed.

We can also challenge the prosecutor’s evidence outright, and fight to have the charges thrown out or prove your innocence in court.

Theft Resources in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania State Police – This governmental department serves the public in Pennsylvania by seeking justice for criminal offenses, preserving the peace and improving the quality of law for all. Included on this site is information about crime prevention and current initiatives by the PSP. A Chester County office is located at:

Pennsylvania State Police

Chester County Station
997 Lieds Road
Coatesville, PA 19320
Phone: (484) 340-3241

National Association for Shoplifting Prevention – This non-profit organization seeks to prevent shoplifting nationwide, provides information on where to find help for those with a shoplifting problem, and other resources about shoplifting.

Contact a West Chester Theft Attorney

Pennsylvania theft charges can be as minor as shoplifting with minimal consequences to life-changing felony fraud charges and decades in prison. No matter the value or circumstances, reach out to Skinner Law Firm. Have former Chester County prosecutor Michael J. Skinner listen to the facts and help you identify any possible defenses or mitigating details that will reduce your charge, or even have it dismissed.

In West Chester, Phoenixville, Exton, Kennett Square, Downingtown, Oxford, Coatesville, or anywhere in Chester County, call (610) 436-1410 for a free consultation about your alleged theft charge.