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A theft conviction can spell severe consequences for you. In addition to the overall blemish on your record, fines and incarceration rank among the possibilities. Whether the theft constitutes a misdemeanor or conviction and, therefore, the level of punishment depends on the value of what you stole. Employers can rely on felony theft convictions to deny you a job. You also face the possibility of being ineligible for certain professional licenses.
Under Pennsylvania law, you commit theft when you take another’s property with the intent of keeping that property from him or her permanently. Of course, there exists physical taking of property by lifting, snatching or grabbing.
However, theft also arises from non-physical acts. These include:
*Deception: This method consists of false impressions about your intent to keep a promise involving the property, the value of property or its condition. Failing to perform or keep the promise, by itself, does not prove deception. Unless you falsely represented your intent to perform, the aggrieved party has at most a civil breach of contract claim. Withholding or concealing information that influences another’s judgment also proves theft by deception.
*Extortion: Theft by extortion means to acquire another’s property through threats of violence, other harm or criminal activity.
*Bad Checks: If you present a check for payment, knowing you don’t have enough in the bank to cover it or that the account is closed (or doesn’t exist), you have committed theft by writing a bad check to get the goods or service.
Retail theft, which may involve physical taking, applies when you take property from a retail establishment, such as a department, grocery or convenience store, or other business without paying full value. Normally, this full value is the price charged by the business.
Pennsylvania law also treats as theft your failure to attempt to return property you obtain, knowing it to be lost from its true owner. As a related matter, receiving property that you know is stolen also falls under the crime of theft.
In most cases, there is a dollar or value threshold that separates misdemeanor theft from felony theft. That amount is over $2,000.00.
Some theft convictions are felonies without regard to the value stolen. Examples include theft of the following items:
When the property involved has a value under $50, Pennsylvania law classifies the theft as a “summary offense.” Such an act technically doesn’t count as a criminal conviction. However, it will appear on your criminal record, and you’ll face potentially up to 90 days in jail and a fine between $25 and $1,500.
With a Bucks County theft lawyer, you have someone to protect your rights in a criminal prosecution or reduce the potential impact of a conviction. Specifically, a theft lawyer will examine the charges and evidence offered against you. This work includes gathering that evidence through interviewing witnesses, obtaining and reviewing surveillance video (if any) and police reports.
Since the value of the property determines the severity of the offense, a lawyer can aid you in contesting evidence of the price or value of what was taken. You might have other defenses, such as:
*You lacked intent to deprive the owner of the property, such as you mistook the property as your own, or you had a good faith claim to it
*You committed the theft, but under duress or threat of harm from another if you didn’t commit the act
Defense of theft charges also entails attempting to exclude statements you made in violation of your Miranda rights or other evidence obtained due to an illegal stop or search. Video recordings of your alleged theft might be inadmissible if the recording system was not working or is otherwise not reliable.
In some cases, the best result might be a reduction of the theft charges, especially to a misdemeanor that you might later be able to have “sealed” (protected from public inspection). In most cases, you do not have to disclose on employment or other applications charges or convictions that you seal. Even with more serious theft charges, the services of a Bucks County theft lawyer may help lessen the prospects of significant jail and other impacts of a theft conviction.