Chester County Shoplifting Attorney
Anyone who thinks shoplifting isn’t a serious crime quickly learns the truth once charged. A conviction for shoplifting means a permanent criminal record — barring any expungement. Residents of Chester County charged with shoplifting in the state of Pennsylvania should seek out the best possible attorney for representation.
What is Shoplifting?
Shoplifting is a type of theft. The designation provides a more clear means of classifying particular larceny. A shoplifter is someone who steals from a retail, grocery, or another type of store. Shoplifters do not break into stores after closing. Instead, they enter the store and appear to be customers. While in the store, they may choose to take merchandise and hide it on their person. Commonly, the shoplifter tries to walk out of the store with the goods on his/her person. Once again, these actions represent theft. An individual does not even need to exit the store to be charged with shoplifting. Merely concealing the merchandise could lead to an arrest.
The act of shoplifting might not change much from state-to-state, but the laws in different jurisdictions vary. Someone facing shoplifting charges in Chester County must contend with the laws of Pennsylvania. The statutes may not be as lenient as assumed.
Shoplifting Laws in Pennsylvania
The official designation of shoplifting in Pennsylvania is “retail theft.” Retail theft may be charged as a summary offense, a misdemeanor, or a felony. The classification charges commonly depend on the value of the merchandise stolen.
Be aware that shoplifters may face additional charges such as trespassing or resisting arrest. Circumstances associated with different incidents vary and, likely, so will the charges.
Here are the associated merchandise values and related charges:
- Less than $150 represents a summary offense.
- Less than $150 and a prior offense represents a second-degree misdemeanor
- Merchandise worth $150 or more and one prior offense represents a first-degree misdemeanor
- Merchandise worth more than $1,000 or theft with a third offense represents a third-degree felony.
Also, theft of a firearm under any circumstances is a third-degree felony.
Penalties for Shoplifting in Pennsylvania
The penalties levied against someone convicted of shoplifting vary depending upon the classification of the crime. A misdemeanor won’t be as harsh as a felony. With a summary offense, a guilty verdict comes with a maximum of up to 90 days in jail plus fines upwards of $300. At the felony level, a sentence may present a maximum of 7 years in jail and a fine upwards of $15,000.
A defendant benefits from having a skilled attorney represent him/her during criminal proceedings. It is possible for an attorney could reduce the sentencing and fine amount in the event of a guilty verdict or plea agreement. Of course, someone falsely accused of shoplifting may explore a reasonable defense strategy.
Defenses to Shoplifting Charges
A multitude of different defenses exists for someone facing retail theft charges. Knowledge and intent factor into the validity of the charges. Someone who accidentally walks out of a store with a small amount of merchandise lacks both knowledge and intent. A criminal defense attorney could seek the dismissal of the charges.
Of course, someone outright falsely accused of shoplifting shouldn’t be facing charges in the first place. However, situations can get out of hand and result in a false accusation. An attorney could possibly straighten such a disastrous situation out.
Hire the Best Attorney
Criminal defense attorneys each possess unique experience and maintain their specialties. Someone accused of shoplifting must look for an attorney who represented many similar cases successfully. An attorney with the appropriate experience may be able to best serve a client.