person shoplifting

The most common property crime in the United States is shoplifting, costing businesses across the country more than $13 billion in merchandise every year. Comparatively few individuals (just 3%) might be called “professional” shoplifters. You may be wondering, then, what is shoplifting in Pennsylvania? This blog post will detail everything you need to know about what shoplifting or retail theft is in Pennsylvania and how it is penalized. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a York County theft crime attorney if you’ve been accused of retail theft. A strong defense is your human right and we will be there to fight for you.

How Pennsylvania Defines Shoplifting

The statute that governs shoplifting in Pennsylvania is 18 Pa.C.S.A. 3929. (Retail theft is merely another way to say shoplifting in Pennsylvania legal jargon.) 18 Pa.C.S.A. 3929 criminalizes taking merchandise from a vendor without any intent to pay, by moving around tags in a store, changing items’ packaging, or otherwise defrauding the store to avoid paying them in full.

How Is Retail Theft Categorized and Penalized in Pennsylvania?

18 Pa.C.S.A. 3929 categorizes several types of actions as retail theft or shoplifting. These include:

  • Personally taking or somehow causing goods to be taken, with the intention of noy paying the commercial establishment the full price of the goods
  • Changing, taking off, or destroying a price tagTaking an item out of a container to avoid paying the full price
  • Ringing up merchandise with the intention to charge less than its full price

However, the penalty for each type of retail theft is the same. As stated above, penalties increased based on how much is taken and the prior history of the accused, not based on how the theft was carried out.

For a first offense taking less than $150 worth of merchandise, jail time isn’t very likely. Instead the accused, if found guilty, will likely be fined. A second offense, however, when the defendant is accused of stealing a value under $150 would then be considered a second-degree misdemeanor. By the time it gets to a third offense, it will be penalized as a third-degree felony.

Is Retail Theft a Felony or a Misdemeanor?

Retail theft or shoplifting can be a misdemeanor or a felony in Pennsylvania, dependent on how much money was involved and on the prior criminal history of the accused.

When the accused has two or more previous convictions for retail theft, then the current instance is considered a felony. Additionally, when the accused tries to take $1,000 or more in merchandise, or when the accused involved a firearm or a motor vehicle, the current instance of shoplifting is now a third-degree felony in Pennsylvania. Penalties for felony shoplifting include up to seven years in prison and fines of up to $15,000. The accused may also have their license privileges suspended.

In any other circumstance, however, shoplifting or retail theft is considered a misdemeanor.