Philadelphia Retail Theft Charges (Shoplifting)
What is Retail Theft?
If you are facing Retail Theft charges in Philadelphia or the surrounding counties, you need to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Pennsylvania’s Retail Theft statute prohibits the conduct that most people would think of as shoplifting as well as a wide range of conduct which could be related to shoplifting. Most importantly, it prohibits taking possession of a store’s property which is offered for sale and taking that property outside of the store without paying. It also makes it illegal to alter labels and price tags in order to pay less for merchandise, transfer merchandise to a different container in order to pay less, destroy inventory control strips and other tracking mechanisms, and under-ring an item on the cash register. Essentially, retail theft is stealing merchandise which a store is offering for display or sale by walking out without paying or through trickery.
Gradation of Retail Theft Charges
Depending on the value of the merchandise involved and whether the defendant has any prior convictions for retail theft, retail theft can range in gradation from a summary offense to a felony of the third degree.
- A first retail theft charge will be a summary offense when the merchandise is worth less than $150.
- Retail theft is a misdemeanor of the second degree when the offense is a second offense and the merchandise is worth less than $150.
- It becomes a misdemeanor of the first degree when the offense is a first or second offense and the merchandise is worth more than $150.
- Shoplifting becomes a felony of the third degree when it is a third or subsequent offense or if the merchandise has a value exceeding $1,000 or is a firearm or motor vehicle.
Defenses to Retail Theft Charges
Given the nature and value of the property involved and whether the defendant has prior convictions for retail theft, retail theft charges can quickly become very serious. However, our experienced criminal defense attorneys recognize the many potential defenses to shoplifting charges.
- First, retail theft charges often stem from a misunderstanding or mistake by the defendant. It is quite common that there is an innocent explanation for conduct which would otherwise look potentially criminal. For example, the defendant may have mistakenly put an item in a bag while taking a phone call and then have been arrested for shoplifting as if the defendant had intentionally concealed the merchandise in order to steal it.
- Second, retail theft cases often lead to discovery issues with the Commonwealth as many stores create records and surveillance tapes which the stores and prosecution do not do a good job of preserving. If the store and/or police fail to properly preserve records, receipts, and surveillance tapes, this failure could provide potential defenses or lead to the dismissal of the case.
- Third, many defendants with prior convictions may have been convicted in states in which the statute does not qualify as a prior conviction under Pennsylvania law, and so it may be possible to have felony shoplifting charges downgraded to misdemeanors.
- Finally, there are often issues of identification, credibility, and whether the prosecution has sufficient evidence just as in any other type of case.
Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyers for PA Retail Theft and Shoplifting Charges
The Philadelphia Criminal Defense and Trial Lawyers of Goldstein Mehta LLC have had success handling these types of cases and obtaining successful outcomes for our clients. We recognize the issues in retail theft cases and know how to respond. We have tried these cases to verdict and obtained acquittals. Theft charges are often heard in the Philadelphia Municipal Court, and we have tried hundreds, if not thousands, of cases in that venue. However, even when charged as a misdemeanor, retail theft charges are extremely serious due to the potential for damage to a defendant's career and employability. Therefore, if you or a loved one are facing shoplifting charges in Philadelphia or the surrounding counties, call 267-225-2545 today for a complimentary 15-minute criminal defense strategy session.