Theft Offenses

Theft by Unlawful Taking

Movable Property - This offense is defined as unlawfully taking, or exercising unlawful control over, movable property belonging to another with the intent to deprive the owner of that property.

Immovable Property - This offense is defined as unlawfully transferring, or exercising unlawful control over, immovable property belonging to another or any interest in that property with the intent to benefit oneself or another person who is not entitled to that benefit.

Theft by Deception

This offense is defined as intentionally obtaining or withholding property belonging to another by deception. A person deceives if he intentionally:

  • creates or reinforces a false impression, including false impressions as to law, value, intention or other state of mind
  • prevents another from acquiring information which would affect his judgment of the transaction
  • fails to correct a false impression which the deceiver previously created or reinforced, or which the deceiver knows to be influencing another to whom he stands in a fiduciary or confidential relationship

Theft of Property Lost, Mislaid, or Delivered by Mistake

A person commits this offense if he comes into control of property belonging to another that he knows to have been lost, mislaid, or delivered by mistake and if, with the intent to deprive the owner of that property, he fails to take reasonable measures to restore the property to that owner.

Receiving Stolen Property

A person is guilty of this offense if he intentionally receives, retains or disposes of movable property belonging to another knowing that it has been stolen, or believing that it probably has been, unless that property is received, retained or disposed of with the intent to restore it to the owner.

Theft of Services

A person is guilty of this offense if he intentionally obtains services for himself or for another which he knows are available only for compensation by:

  • deception or threat
  • altering or tampering with the public utility meter or measuring device by which such services are delivered or by causing or permitting such tampering
  • making or maintaining any unauthorized connection, whether physically, electrically or inductively, to a distribution or transmission line
  • attaching or maintaining the attachment of any unauthorized device to any cable, wire or other component of a television receiving set connected to a cable television system
  • making or maintaining any unauthorized modification or alteration to any device installed by a cable television system
  • false token or other trick or artifice to avoid payment for the service

Further, a person is guilty of this offense if he intentionally obtains or attempts to obtain telecommunication service by the use of an unlawful telecommunication device or without the consent of the telecommunication service provider.

Grading - This offense is graded as a summary offense punishable by a maximum sentence of 90 days of incarceration and a $300 fine when the value of the services obtained is less than $50. When the value of the services is greater than $50, then the grading shall be the same as any other theft offense.

Unauthorized Use of Automobiles and Other Vehicles

This offense is defined as operating an automobile, airplane, motorcycle, motorboat, or other motor-propelled vehicle which belongs to another without consent of the owner.

It is a defense to this crime that the actor reasonably believed that the owner would have consented to the operation had he known of it.

Retail theft

There are multiple activities that are defined as retail theft:

  • take possession of or carry away an item offered for sale by a merchant with the intent to deprive the merchant of the full retail value
  • alter, transfer or remove a price tag and then attempt to purchase that item for a reduced price with the intent to deprive the merchant of the full retail value
  • transfer an item from the container in which it is sold with the intent to deprive the merchant of the full retail value
  • under-ring an item with the intent to deprive the merchant of the full retail value
  • removal of security tags or devices with the intent to deprive the merchant of the full retail value

Retail theft is a recidivist crime which means that the penalty increases for subsequent convictions. The grading of this offense is as follows:

  • first offense, value of item less than $150 - summary offense which carries a maximum penalty of 90 days of incarceration and a $300 fine
  • second offense, value of item less than $150 - misdemeanor of the second degree which carries a maximum sentence of 2 years of incarceration and a $5,000 fine
  • first or second offense, value of item over $150 - misdemeanor of the first degree which carries a maximum sentence of 5 years of incarceration and a $10,000 fine
  • third or subsequent offense, regardless of value of item - felony of the third degree which carries a maximum sentence of 7 years of incarceration and a $15,000 fine
  • value of the item is over $2,000, regardless of how many prior convictions - - felony of the third degree which carries a maximum sentence of 7 years of incarceration and a $15,000 fine
  • item stolen is a firearm or a motor vehicle, regardless of how many prior convictions - felony of the third degree which carries a maximum sentence of 7 years of incarceration and a $15,000 fine

General grading of theft offenses - unless otherwise noted in the offense section, theft crimes are graded as follows:

A theft offense is a felony of the first degree and punishable by 20 years of incarceration and a $25,000 fine if:

  • in the case of Receiving Stolen Property, the property received, retained or disposed of if a firearm AND the receiver is in the business of buying or selling stolen property
  • the amount involved is more than $500,000

A theft offense is a felony of the second degree and punishable by 10 years of incarceration and a $25,000 fine if:

  • the offense is committed during a manmade disaster, a natural disaster or a war-caused disaster and is defined as Theft by Unlawful Taking, Receiving Stolen Property, Unauthorized Use of An Automobile or Retail Theft
  • the property stolen is a firearm
  • in the case of Receiving Stolen Property, the property received, retained or disposed of is a firearm but the receiver is not in the business of buying or selling stolen property
  • the property stolen is any amount of anhydrous ammonia
  • the amount involved is between $100,000 and $500,000

A theft offense is a felony of the third degree and punishable by a maximum sentence of 7 years of incarceration and a $15,000 fine if:

  • the amount involved is between $2,000 and $100,000
  • the property stolen is an automobile, airplane, motorcycle, motorboat or other motor-propelled vehicle
  • in the case of Receiving Stolen Property, the receiver is in the business of buying or selling stolen property

Misdemeanor grading

  • If a theft offense does not fall under the above felony categories and the value involved is more than $200 then it is a misdemeanor of the first degree and punishable by 5 years of incarceration and a $10,000 fine as long as the property was not taken from the person by threat, or in breach of fiduciary duty.
  • If the theft offense involves a value between $50 and $200 then it is a misdemeanor of the second degree and punishable by a maximum sentence of 2 years of incarceration and a $5,000 fine.
  • If the theft offense involves less than $50 then the offense is a misdemeanor of the third degree and punishable by 1 year of incarceration and a $2,500 fine.

Theft offenses can have a serious impact on your ability to obtain employment in the future because they are considered crimes of dishonesty. It is very important that you speak to an attorney about how best to handle your case. Call our Reading, PA criminal defense lawyers today at 610-372-5128 or submit your case on the "Ask an attorney" link.