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Retail Theft

Retail Theft Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer

Have you been accused of Retail Theft - more commonly referred to as shoplifting - in Pennsylvania? If so, you need to retain counsel to defend you from these potentially serious charges. You will need to discuss the facts surrounding the incident to your attorney to best prepare a defense or grounds for a plea. Perhaps you simply forgot to pay for something, or otherwise somehow unintentionally altered or misappropriated the item. Whatever the situation, you will need an experienced Criminal Attorney like those at The Law Offices of Greg Prosmushkin, P.C. to help you.

Retail Theft Facts

In Pennsylvania, shoplifting is referred to as Retail Theft. The crime is classified based upon two factors: (1) the value of the wrongfully taken property, and (2) how many times the individual has previously been convicted.

Most of us have a good understanding of what constitutes theft. However, the actual definition of Retail Theft in Pennsylvania is rather extensive, as codified under the Pennsylvania Criminal Code, Title 18, Chapter 39. In summary, Retail Theft goes beyond a simple taking, but rather taking any action which serves to deprive the merchant of the full retail value of the property. This may be accomplished by either taking the property outright or altering its value or identification in some fashion to take possession of it by illegitimate means.

If you're interested in the actual language, § 3929 reads as follows:

(a) Offense defined.--A person is guilty of a retail theft if he:

1. takes possession of, carries away, transfers or causes to be carried away or transferred, any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale by any store or other retail mercantile establishment with the intention of depriving the merchant of the possession, use or benefit of such merchandise without paying the full retail value thereof;

2. alters, transfers or removes any label, price tag marking, indicia of value or any other markings which aid in determining value affixed to any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale in a store or other retail mercantile establishment and attempts to purchase such merchandise personally or in consort with another at less than the full retail value with the intention of depriving the merchant of the full retail value of such merchandise;

3. transfers any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale by any store or other retail mercantile establishment from the container in or on which the same shall be displayed to any other container with intent to deprive the merchant of all or some part of the full retail value thereof; or

4. under-rings with the intention of depriving the merchant of the full retail value of the merchandise.

5. destroys, removes, renders inoperative or deactivates any inventory control tag, security strip or any other mechanism designed or employed to prevent an offense under this section with the intention of depriving the merchant of the possession, use or benefit of such merchandise without paying the full retail value thereof.

Degrees of Retail Theft Crime

Retail Theft is a crime. The crime will be classified as a (1) summary offense, (2) misdemeanor, or (3) felony of the third degree, based upon the value of the merchandise involved in the theft and the number of previous convictions an individual has for the crime. Retail theft is classified as a:

  • Summary offense when the offense is a first offense and the value of the merchandise is less than $150; or
  • Misdemeanor of the second degree when the offense is a second offense and the value of the merchandise is less than $150; or
  • Misdemeanor of the first degree when the offense is a first or second offense and the value of the merchandise is $150 or more; or
  • Felony of the third degree when the offense is a third or subsequent offense, regardless of the value of the merchandise; or
  • Felony of the third degree when the amount involved exceeds $2,000 or if the merchandise involved is a firearm or a motor vehicle.

Can an Employee of a Business Detain Me?

Unfortunately, this is an issue which is somewhat counterintuitive. We are taught to believe that we must adhere to police instruction and that only the authorities are allowed to detain us. However, in this circumstance, this is not the case. In Pennsylvania, a store owner and their employees have the right to reasonable detain and search a person whom they have "probable cause" to believe committed retail theft.

Obviously, the issue here is what amounts to "probable cause". In some instances the business would have a right to detain you and not in others. It cannot be emphasized enough that you should not take it upon yourself to decide what amounts to probable cause. If you resist, it is very likely you will only worsen the situation. You should cooperate and immediately contact your attorney.

Why Do I Need an Attorney?

An attorney will advise you as to how to proceed, and take appropriate action after the detention or arrest. An attorney will prepare for your case by:

  • Reviewing and potentially discrediting any evidence being used against you.
  • Analyzing the actions of the merchants and officers to make sure the chain of events was proper and using any improprieties to your benefit.
  • Performing discovery, which means receiving any relevant paper work and video and performing necessary investigation to best prepare your case.

Call The Law Offices of Greg Prosmushkin, P.C. to schedule a free consultation with one of our Criminal Defense Attorneys. Remember to share all the facts and details you can recall. If it helps, feel free to write down the details as your memory only fades as time passes. With your help, our attorneys can help protect you from these charges and achieve the best outcome possible.

This content was written on behalf of Greg Prosmushkin.

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