Shoplifting (aka, retail theft) occurs when someone takes items from a store without paying for them. These items may be concealed in a bag, in pockets, or under the person’s clothing. It can happen in any retail store by career thieves or first-time offenders. Perpetrators are often identified by security cameras or store personnel who may search bags and verify receipts. Many stores have store personnel who spend their entire time on the store floor watching for shoplifters.
Shoplifting is a serious charge, and it can have serious consequences for your future. One of the first concerns for someone caught stealing from a store is if they will have to go to jail. This is completely understandable. If you are charged with shoplifting, we urge you to contact our office to speak with an Edinboro criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Can You Go to Jail for Shoplifting?
No matter how small the item you shoplift, you could end up facing jail time. Felony and repeat misdemeanor retail theft charges (described below) frequently require jail time.
What Are the Consequences for Shoplifting First Offense?
Depending on the charges, if this is your first offense for shoplifting, you may be fortunate enough to receive probation or community service. However, an experienced criminal defense attorney will have experience getting your charges or punishment reduced to help you avoid jail time.
Pennsylvania Retail Theft (Shoplifting) Charges Chart
Misdemeanor Retail Theft (Shoplifting) Charges
In Pennsylvania, shoplifting can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. While a misdemeanor charge is less serious than a felony, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. There are three possible charges misdemeanor shoplifting charges and each charge carries the possibility of jail time.
- Misdemeanor 3 Shoplifting – when the value of the stolen goods is less than $50. A conviction of Misdemeanor 3 Shoplifting carries a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail.
- Misdemeanor 2 Shoplifting – when the value of the stolen goods is over $50. A conviction of Misdemeanor 2 Shoplifting can result in up to three years in jail.
- Misdemeanor 1 Shoplifting – when the value of the stolen goods is more than $200. A conviction of Misdemeanor Shoplifting 1 carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail.
Felony Retail Theft (Shoplifting) Charges
Shoplifting is automatically charged as a felony if the items stolen are valued at more than $2,000. You could face up to seven years in jail if convicted of felony shoplifting in Pennsylvania. The charge will also be a felony if a firearm is used during the commission of the crime, regardless of the value of the items stolen. Both a felony and misdemeanor charge will become part of your record. However, a felony is the more serious of the two charges and frequently requires jail time. It can also prevent you from working in some fields. A misdemeanor is more likely to result in alternative sentencing, such as a fine or community service.
The final decision of whether you receive jail time for your shoplifting charge depends on several factors. If you have a previous record of theft of shoplifting, you are more likely to receive jail time. On the other hand, if this is your first conviction, you may be fortunate enough to receive probation or community service.
Hire a Reputable Criminal Defense Attorney
Regardless of the charge, you need to hire an experienced attorney to represent you against shoplifting charges. If you have been charged with a felony, the attorney may be able to negotiate a lower charge and/or reduce your punishment to help you avoid jail time or reduce it to the minimum sentence for jail time. It’s always in your best interest to consult with an attorney rather than attempt to represent yourself against a charge of shoplifting, no matter how minor the matter seems.
Don’t trust your legal defense to a public defender. Your future and your freedom are at stake — hire a local attorney with experience defending Pennsylvania shoplifting charges.
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