In Pennsylvania, shoplifting is also called retail theft. An adult who is convicted of retail theft faces incarceration and fines. The judge will impose a sentence based on the level of the offense, as well as the offender's previous criminal history.
Pennsylvania law defines retail theft as the taking of merchandise from a retailer without paying for its full retail value, intending to permanently deprive the retailer of the goods. This can include removing merchandise from the store, changing or removing labels and price tags, or tampering with security tags. Retail theft is graded based on the value of stolen merchandise and offender’s criminal history. A first offense, in which the value of stolen merchandise is less than $150, is only a summary offense. It becomes a second-degree misdemeanor if it is the offender’s second conviction for taking property valued below $150. It is a first-degree misdemeanor to shoplift anything valued between $150 and $2,000. Shoplifting is a third-degree felony if the offender stole a car or firearm, item is valued at more than $2,000 or this is his third retail theft conviction.
Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition
If a person is charged with shoplifting, it is his first offense and the item taken was of minimal value, the prosecutor may agree to Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. After pleading guilty, the offender is placed on probation for up to two years, required to pay a fine and complete community service. The benefit of ARD is that if an offender completes his community service and does not commit any other crimes during his probation period, the shoplifting conviction will be erased from his record.
When a person is convicted of retail theft in Pennsylvania, the judge also has the option of ordering him to pay a fine, which is based on the level of retail theft the offender was convicted of. For a first offense, the fine is between $100 and $250. If convicted of retail theft for a second time, the fine increases to between $250 and $500. Three or more retail theft convictions require a minimum fine of $500. In addition, an offender with three or more retail theft convictions can have his driver’s license suspended for 30 days.
In addition to monetary penalties, an offender can also be incarcerated for retail theft. For a first offense, a judge can sentence an offender to a maximum of 90 days in jail. A second offense will result in a second-degree misdemeanor conviction, which carries a sentence of up to three years in prison. The sentence increases to up to five years in prison for shoplifting items valued between $150 and $2,000, regardless of whether it's the offender's first or second offense. Lastly, felony shoplifting carries a maximum sentence of up to seven years in prison.
Bernadette A. Safrath is an attorney who has been writing professionally since 2008. Safrath was published in Touro Law Center's law review and now writes legal articles for various websites. Safrath has a Bachelor of Arts in music from Long Island University at C.W. Post, as well as a Juris Doctor from Touro College.